Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes
Summer “Lady of the Trays”
AT THIS season of the year we hear a great deal on the subject of simplifying the family diet. No doubt much of this is practical and helpful from the view-point of economy in both digestion and labor. But having simplified the food and its preparation there still remains the unvaried problem of serving what has been prepared. To digest and properly assimilate food it should be taken into the system while there is at least a certain degree of physical and mental relaxation. From this scientific fact has sprung the aesthetic demand that our dining-tables present a fresh, orderly picture. Delicate flowers, spotless linen, sparkling glass and silver and shaded lights cannot put more nourishment into the food we serve but they can help over taxed nerves to relax, and in that way may actually increase the amount of nutriment our systems derive from the food.
In summer, even more than in winter, we feel the need of having our tables look dainty and our food put before us in as attractive a form as possible and although we, who are both mistress and maid in our household know how much less work it would make, we do not ask our families to eat in a hot kitchen off paper plates. After all, meal time means more than just an appointed hour for re-stoking.
It is because we instinctively feel this to be true that we tramp back and forth over the well worn trail three times a day. From kitchen to dining-room, diningroom to pantry, pantry to china-closet, we go, taking one thing from here, one from there, setting the table neatly and arranging the food upon it in the most appetizing fashion. We may find it tiresome but we go on doing the same thing day in and day out, in all probability thinking we do it because we always have done it and because all our friends do the same. In reality we are doing it because we have an instinctive urge to obey a fundamental law of nature. It is not enough that those dependent upon us should have food. We must also create for them an atmosphere which will induce relaxation and ease of mind if they are to fully benefit from what we have planned and prepared for them.
Then having created the effect we worked for; having done the best we could to present the meal in a well ordered, attractive manner, we naturally want it to run its course in the same way. Confusion will entirely destroy all we have created. It is not conducive to ease or contentment
of mind to have the whole family jumping up to help between courses. No matter how kindly the intention, it does spoil our picture to have Father striding out to the kitchen with the platter, Sally rushing to and fro with the plates while even our guest tentatively obliges with the gravy.
It may save us steps but it does not save us nervous energy at the time nor does it help us when later we go back to a kitchen that looks like the shore of an angry sea with wreckage heaped where wreckage was never intended to be.
For Maidless Households
there are many ways of avoiding such confusion. No doubt each “maidless” household has worked out a system of its own but only a few weeks ago I enjoyed a dinner prepared by our hostess, herself, and served to eight persons, not only without confusion but with such a savi ng of energy
that I think none of the four of us who sat as guests at the table were ever once made conscious of the fact that she was doing it entirely alone.
It was a late spring evening. Although the meal was dinner, the formal damask table-cloth of winter had given place to more easily laundried runners, d’oylies and serviettes. Two runners of natural colored linen about eighteen inches wide, were laid one the length and one the width of the table, crossing each other at the centre. In the spaces left were four oblong d’oylies and at each place a moderate sized, simply folded serviette. On each d’oylie in the corner nearest the centre of the table a conventional motif was worked out in red, blue, green, yellow and black, while on the runners the motifs were enlarged and put, not at the ends as is usual but about ten inches each side of the central point which brought them far enough away from the centre to allow the motifs on the under runner to come just beyond the side edges of the upper. These four designs made a colorful border around the wide bowl of forget-me-nots and gay tulips which stood in the centre of the table. The serviettes were plain except for a hem-stitching with black.
The effect of the linen was pretty and most unusual. It was not, however, until the soup plates had quietly disappeared from the table and I saw the platter with parsley-bedecked chickens, placed before our host on a Chinese blue tray, while the
vegetable dishes, on a bright tomato red one, were put down at the opposite end of the table that I sensed something charmingly original. I had known trays with coffee and trays with tea but trays under vegetable dishes and platters were new to me.
Later, when this course had been removed and replaced by salad quickly and with no confusion, and in their turn had come a bowl of strawberries with the dessert plates beside them on a jade green tray while the coffee service and cups had a yellow one for a setting, I realized how delightfully trays might add to the decorative effect of a table. It was not until later that I learned from this same skilful hostess just how effectively a system of trays might be employed to save confusion and energy, especially in summer when in the natural order of things meals are served more informally.
This is what she told me.
“My trays?” she questioned smilingly. “I’m glad you think them pretty. I do, too, but it is the steps they save me which I appreciate most. I have worked out a
regular tray system, you know, and it has simplified my problems of serving three meals a day to four people most amazingly. I will tell you how I manage such a meal as we had tonight and you will see for yourself how the same principle applies to every day conditions.
Eight Trays and Stands
“T^O SERVE such a A meal as you had with us this evening I use eight trays,” she said, and laughed at my exclamation of surprise, “and I also have eight folding stands to fit them, but that is another story. I will begin by saying that by using a tray to help me set the table I find I can save, at least, half the steps it would take to achieve the same result without one. Without a tray I would go to the side-board, for instance, and take the forks, spoons and knives from the drawers and go around the table setting them in place. Then I would go back for
the salt and pepper, then back again for the glasses and again for the carvers and so on. The same with the china from the china-closet. There would be trip after trip if I only carried what my two hands could manage. But with my tray, I go to the side-board and at one time collect everything from there I am going to need for that particular meal. Then I put my tray down well in the centre of the table and from it lay everything in place, in a moment. The same with the china from the ^ china-closet, although, of course, I can’t take all I need from there at one time but even for a dinner like to-night’s, three trips should be enough. The first for the platter, plates, vegetable dishes and gravy boat which go directly to the kitchen to be put to warm; a second trip takes salad plates, dessert plates and plates for cakes and crackers to the kitchen also, and a third trip, to the kitchen again with coffee cups, cream and sugar bowl, little dishes for olives and salted nuts and any condiment I may be serving. If you wiil think a moment you will see how much running back and forth one tray has saved me already.
“Then in the kitchen I lay out my salad plates on two trays and arrange my salads ready to serve. On a third, I put the coffee cups and cream and sugar. A fourth has the dessert plates and a bowl for the berries. These four trays I set aside to wait till their turns to go to the table. Then with the meat and vegetables ready to serve but put where they will keep warm I am ready to take the soup to the table. This means two more trays and in the dining-room I put up two of my folding stands as near to the kitchen door as convenient. The two trays with the soup come to rest on these stands first and from there the plates are quickly put in place on the table. When the used plates are to be taken away after that course I carry them two at a time from the table to the trays, lift the spoons quietly from them, and lay them to one side of the tray, pile the plates and take them to the kitchen. Then as you saw the meat and vegetables come to the table on their own trays while a third brings the warm plates, gravy, bread-sauce or whatever condiment I may be serving, and a third vegetable dish on top of the plates. This last tray comes to rest on the empty stand near the door and its contents are quickly transferred to the table, and again there are two empty trays on the stands waiting to help carry away when we have finished.
“When that time comes, out go the meat and vegetables on their trays. Two by two the plates are taken f rom the table to the waiting trays. All the small things that are to be taken away are added, the crumbs brushed up and the trays
carried to the kitchen, while on each return trip I bring in a tray with the salads ready on it. Two by two these go to the table and. . .Voila! Only four trips to the kitchen and all done so quietly and without confusion.”
After a pause she went on.
“It is after I have taken the salad plates out that I usually spend just a few minutes in the kitchen. By that time everybody is talking and they are not hungry any more, so while I make sure the coffee is good and hot I take all the used silver from the trays slip it into a pan of hot water and soap-powder, and then clean off the knives, meat and salad plates with paper napkins, I always use
lulled and refreshed by the evensong of birds and the peace giving harmony of a garden at sunset. This was the setting in which I learned the use of the folding stands.
FEW of us -ever entirely outgrow our childhood delight in a picnic. When summer comes after the long season of being shut in, we long for the out of doors and we love the idea of eating in the wide open spaces. But how often the realization of such a plan is a disappointment. After a few experiments we decide we are getting old and we think with regret of the
them in place of scraping the plates with a knife. It is so much quieter and quicker and leaves them much pleasanter to wash. As the used dishes are not scattered around the kitchen but are in good order on their trays it takes but a moment or so before they are all piled and ready for washing.
Now for the Etceteras
NOW out comes my dessert from the refrigerator. It goes on the tray that waited for it with the plates to serve it. The cakes, crackers and cheese go in on a tray to one of the stands ready to serve when we need them and my coffee goes to the table on its own tray. There you are! My dinner served, and my kitchen in good order while a few minutes work, with the help of my trays will put the diningroom to rights.”
I thought it over for a moment and then in rather a tone of self-justification for never having worked out a tray system of my own, I said:
“My kitchen table would be too small to hold eight trays at once.”
“So is mine!” came the answer.
“And I wouldn’t have room in my kitchen for a side table,” I went on.
“Neither have I!” she said, with a twinkle in her eye. “But there is one ; place in my kitchen where I can put up the ironing board when I am serving, so I put 1 a piece of table oil-cloth over it and use it for an extra table. It will hold the four trays with the salads, dessert things and : coffee cups. In that way I manage very
It was perhaps a week later when I remembered the eight stands. Going to 1 the telephone I rang her up.
When her voice came over the wire I asked without preamble:
“Why do you have eight stands when you seem only to use two?”
“Wait a minuto,” came to me.
Silence. Then her voice again.
“The weather man says ‘Local showers I to-night, to-morrow fair and very warm.’ Won’t you come and have supper with us to-morrow evening at seven? I’ll tell you about my eight stands then.”
A perfect, evening in June with long shadows stretching across the grass; wide borders of flowers that breathed color and sweetness into the cooling air. A verandah, twined with thick matted roses made a haven where tired bodies rested and nerves, frazzled by the heat and jangling noise of the city streets, were
keen joy we knew as children sitting haphazard on the grass and eating anything that was offered us. We wonder why in honeymoon days supper on the porch was the materialization of a dream cherished throughout the weary hours of business. Childhood may have passed and honeymoon days waned but nine times out of ten that is not why we are disappointed in a meal out of doors. The real reason is that we so seldom have a verandah or garden meal served with any comfort. The cat that has been given a piece of fish runs away to eat it not only because he is naturally distrustful, and afraid his treat may be taken from him, but also because he wants to enjoy it in peace and at his leisure. So it is with us. We picture ourselves about to enjoy the treat of a meal in the open but what we really experience is an agony of mind and body as we try to balance a plate on our knees, hold a cup and saucer in one hand and with the other manipulate knife and fork while at the same time we try to keep up our share of the conversation and find some means of passing along an unending stream of plates of bread and butter and cakes.
The lady of the trays had solved this problem. She knew that her family needed as much of the out of doors as it was possible for them to get in the few short months of summer, and as she could not take the out of doors in to them she took them to it and served them meals on her city porch that not only revived their childhood pleasure in a picnic but also brought back their childappetite for simple palatable fare, and childhood’s serenity and freedom from care.
“We can afford only a short real holiday each summer,” she told me afterwards, “but by making every possible use I can of the porches and garden I try to have the whole summer as much of a holiday as I can for us all. That is why we made the folding stands. With them I can serve a meal any place quickly and comfortably. As you have seen, each person has a tray of his own which is put before him on a stand. In the kitchen each tray is set with knife and fork and spoons, salt and pepper, a plate with bread or rolls and butter, a cup and saucer and glass and a plate with the food already served. At a convenient place on the porch I put an extra tray with whatever there is to drink, more bread and butter, salad and cold meat. From there each person can easily replenish his own cup, plate or glass. Two trips with a tray will clear away the used dishes and bring ice-cream or fruit and cake, and in a few moments every-
thing can be carried away with no break in the tranquility of a summer day.
Many Other Uses
“'T'HEN there are so many other ways I
A use my trays and stands,” she went on. _ “When I have mending to do I put one beside me and spread out all my threads and buttons and patches, my scissors and pins and needles so that I can see everything at a glance. When I have letters to write I come out here with a tray for a table. When Jim wants to have a game of patience he uses one of my trays they are easier to handle than a card table and take up less room. Indeed, we have all come to think of the trays and stands as about as useful things as we have ever had in the house and well worth the trouble and expense of getting them.”
“Were they very expensive?” I questioned anxiously.
“Well, no, they weren’t. We got the whole lot for about what one folding stand and tray would cost from a furniture shop.
“If you are really interested I will give you a list of materials and prices and some working drawings of how we made the stands. Jim made the stands and I did the painting. Of course using as many different colors as I did on my trays made them more expensive,_ but a friend of mine has done hers all in two colors, the trays willow green and the stands black like mine, because they suited her china better, and they look very pretty that way.”
These are the materials with directions and drawings that she gave me:
Materials Required for One Folding Stand
12 ft. dressed Fir % in. by 1 in.. . .$ .27
12 ft. dressed Fir yin. by Vyi in.....27
2 bolts ]/¿ in. by 5/16 in............ 6
2 large and 2 small washers........ 5
1 doz. 1 in. round head screws.......10
y yard black table oil-cloth....... 8
Black tape to bind oil-cloth straps. . 5
x/i pint paint......................45
Materials Required for One Enamel Tray
1 tray, 20 in. by 15 in........... $1.25
y¿ pt. flat tone paint...............40
Note: y2 pt. paint and y2 pt. enamel is sufficient for three trays.