Mary J. Lincoln – November, 1895
My loyalty to New England makes me feel that I do not want to vary from the old regulation menu for a Thanksgiving dinner, even if that were non-hygienic, and it would be quite like working against the grain to arrange anything that shall savor of pretence, formality or inhospitality for this time-honored day, a day so closely interwoven with the most tender and sacred associations of the household.
Therefore, in this Thanksgiving feast I have felt constrained to include some of the dishes distinctively belonging to Thanksgiving in the country, its native heath, and to allow considerable freedom in the serving.
Laying the Table.
In laying the table allow ample room between the guests for convenience in serving. Where it is done partly at the table, or informally, you may crowd a little, but not at a formal dinner. You are doubtless supplied with a silence cloth of thick felting of extra size for this occasion, and have planned to use your finest linen, brightest silver, clearest glass and prettiest china.
First, decide on your decorations, which may be fruit or flowers, with more or less silver, according to your means or taste. We will use for to-day a pot of begonia with its lovely variegated foliage, combining the rich shades of wine-red, olive and gray, and drooping with its own inimitable grace over the light-olive or cream-tinted jardiniere, which we place on a centrepiece of linen embroidered with white or shades of pink that will blend well with the foliage.
Plan for four corners, at such distances from this centre as will allow room for the dishes to be served by host and hostess, and lay a pretty bit of embroidery at each place, of such a size and style as will be suitable to hold the dishes of olives in diagonal corners, and the cranberry sauce and currant jelly in low cut glass dishes at the other corners.
If your spoons are elegant, and you wish to use them as a part of the decoration, arrange a dozen teaspoons, in slanting rows of three each, near the corner dishes; these will be needed and convenient for the sherbet.
Then three tablespoons at the right of the hostess above the line of plates, and three at the right hand of the host, also olive forks and jelly spoons near or on these dishes.
Put the carving rests at the host’s place, far enough enough apart to admit the platter, the carving knives at the right and the carving forks, with a smaller one for serving on the left. Put a soup ladle in front of the hostess.
Dainty salts and peppers should be between every two guests, or in the corners opposite the tablespoons.
At a dinner of so many courses, it is not advisable to put all the silver required at each plate. Lay a dinner plate for each person, a napkin on the plate just plainly folded, and at the right front of each plate, place the usual glass for water and a slender glass for cider or Apollinaris; at the left front put a small plate for bread and butter, with a butter spreader if you have these very sensible and useful articles; for although many do not serve butter at a formal dinner, there are others who desire it, and on this occasion we wish to be more hospitable than ceremonious.
Now, remembering the accepted rule to place articles needed first on the outside, you will place a soup spoon about three inches from the right side of the plate, and between this and the plate lay two knives, with the sharp edge toward the plate, the one nearest the spoon being for the turkey course and the other for the duck. Then across these knives lay an oyster fork, or a small fork if you have not the regular oyster fork, which will be all that is needed for the oyster course.
On the left of the plate lay three forks, the salad fork nearest the plate being highest, the duck fork a little lower, and that for the turkey outside and still lower. Let the position of the silver on the right correspond with this on the left.
I have not included tray or serving cloths, as it is to be supposed that the host and hostess will serve so daintily that these will not be needed to protect the table-cloth, and the table is sufficiently protected by the silence cloth, or, if necessary, by enamelled or asbestos mats under the felting. The name card may be on the forks, or in front of the plate, and should be written or painted in a legible style.
These are only suggestions, not arbitrary rules, for I do not recognize any such in this age of independence, and they can be adapted by each reader to her own convenience and appointments. But after all that can be written, much depends upon the individual taste of the one who attempts to follow these hints in making the effect elegant yet simple, symmetrical but without stiffness, and convenient as well as harmonious.
No one would attempt such a dinner as this for six or eight people, served in courses, without securing extra help in the kitchen, or to assist the waitress. Yet, as this is the day of all days when there should be no haste in the serving, it is possible for one maid to serve the dinner, provided the hostess plans wisely, as much of the preparatory work done the day before, assists in the morning’s work and the laying of the table, and possesses enough dishes and silver to do away with any washing between courses, and especially a good supply of kitchen utensils.
On the day preceding the feast, the chestnuts may be shelled, blanched and sifted, the turkey and ducks may be cleaned and stuffed, the cranberry sauce made, the pies baked, and the pudding also. Then, on Thanksgiving morning, make the pudding sauce and butter for the turnips, arrange the table, make the sherbet, put the hominy on to cook, prepare the vegetables and leave in cold water, clean the celery and lay it in a damp napkin the ice-box.
When the turkey is nearly done, prepare the soup and let it keep hot over hot water, drain and crumb the oysters and make the sauce, all but adding the egg. Put the pudding in a kettle of hot water to warm, and prepare the croutons. Arrange the fruit, nuts and confections. The turkey may be kept hot in a pan and the gravy made and kept hot, while the ducks are baking, but if wild ducks are used, these need not be put in the oven until the soup is served. Then brown the oysters and keep them hot.
A spoonful of croutons, a ball of butter and a small dinner roll may be laid on the bread and butter plates, just before the dinner is served. Some people prefer to eat the croutons with, not in the soup, and it makes less serving to have these accessories at each plate.
Put ice in the tumblers, which may be filled now. Place the soup and hot plates before the hostess, then quietly announce to her that “dinner is served.”
Etiquette of the Table.
The host leads the way, with the principal lady guest; the others follow, the hostess having previously made all these arrangements, so there need be no delay or questioning, or unnecessary deference at the last, and she with the leading gentleman, or some other guest of honor, makes up the file.
As soon as she is in her place all are seated. She has probably planned that husbands and wives are not side by side, that the old lades have agreeable companions, and that the awkward or infirm guests are near her, where she can give them special attention.
Surely no one could feel like omitting the offering of thanks on this hallowed day, but if the host prefers not to give them audibly or extend the courtesy to any guest, let him at least respect those who may be inclined to a silent expression of gratitude, by not being too eager to begin the serving. [continued - please select the appropriate page number below]
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