Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

The Fine Art of Table-Laying

ANNE ELIZABETH WILSON December 15 1925
Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

The Fine Art of Table-Laying

ANNE ELIZABETH WILSON December 15 1925

Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes

The Fine Art of Table-Laying

ANNE ELIZABETH WILSON

RE is no ater thrill the experiof the woman whose kingdom is the home than the sight of her table when she leads her guests to luncheon or to dinner, brilliant in glistening crystal, exquisite in linen so white that it, too, seems to shine, and so perfectly appointed and daintily decorated, that her satisfaction is a creative triumph. To be the hostess about whose entertainment guests speak afterward, and whose effects they seek to emulate, is an ambition that should rest close to the heart of every woman who has the opportunity of expressing her personality and her taste in this most gracious of social intercourses. To be able to plan, serve and present a delightful meal with ease and authority, is a true worldly accomplishment, and one which with a little study as to principles, and alertness as to the ever-developing media for decoration and variation, is within the scope of every woman, no matter how small or how pretentious her menage may be.

The first principle of table-laying, of course, is the fundamental question of napery. There should be in the table linen chest of every household where entertaining is considered at all, at least three necessaries. One, a full-sized linen cloth with filet inlay, embroidery, or both, with at least six serviettes of like design; a set of doilies, for the sake of variety, of heavier linen and less delicate design than your embroidered or filet cloth—or instead of doilies, a luncheon set of stretchers. In addition to these two, there is still the need of the beautiful old-fashioned damask cloth for large gatherings, when the table, expanded to its full length, accommodates the Christmas feast, for instance, or the big dinner

in the most conservative English form. Even in England, however, dinners are being served to-day on doilies and stretchers. The day is past, it must be admitted, when every sizeable household boasted at least one damask cloth which might lie in white expanse down the length of a wedding table. These larger cloths are now for the most part supplied by caterers.

The proper laundering of the table cloth is a very important point, not only in its appearance, but in its actual form. There should be but one crease to appear in its entire length, and that down the centre. If there is any other creasing, that is across, it is a bad mistake. Cloths should either be very softly folded when being laid away after ironing (always ironed on the wrong side, by the way) or rolled on cylinders. Table linen must always be hemmed by hand. In formal damask, the invisible hem is to be preferred to the hem-stitching. This also applies to serviettes. Serviettes may be laid either in the service plate softly folded and enclosing a warm, hard unsweetened roll or thick square of bread from which the crust is cut away, or at the left of the forks. The roll or bread may be omitted

if preferred. Bread may be passed later; rolls should always be served in this fashion. In any event see that your napkins are not tortured into restaurant shapes, as waitresses and waiters will sometimes do if not watched.

Next we come to the problem of silver. Just what is required? There should always be enough silver at each plate when you are first seated at table, to accommodate the first three courses at least. To the left of the plate are laid the forks w’hich are required, in the order of their courses, beginning from the outside. The outside fork, therefore, should be the fish fork (that is the fork for the fish course, not the oyster or shell-fish fork); the next, the large fork for the meat course, and on the inside, the salad fork. On the right, are placed the knives, sharp side in, and spoons in like order. The fish knives will be those on the outside, the dinner knives within. As for the spoons, there should never be more than one or two at the first cover. One may be the soup spoon if the first or second course is soup; the other may be a fruit spoon if the first course is fruit cocktail. If both are served, then the fruit spoon should be on the outside,

as its course comes first. As for the dessert-spoon and fork, they are an entirely different affair. There are two ways that they may be laid, but not at the side of the plate with the other forks and spoons. The English form and one which is much used by conservative families in Canada is the custom of placing the fork and dessert-spoon tip to end above the plate. The second, is the method of bringing the dessert-spoon and fork, or fruit knife and fork, in with a separate plate in which rests the finger bowl, before the actual dessert course. Both these methods are illustrated on the following page. There is no arbitrary rule as to which to employ, merely your own taste. Asamatteroffact, youmay use both during the same meal if you are serving a cooked or frozen sweet to be followed by a marked course for the fruit. When serving a savory, you may provide for this in the original setting by placing a small fork on the left at the inside (nearest the plate), or have this placed by the serving maid directly before the course appears. When a shell-fish course is served before soup (oysters or clams) the small oyster fork is laid outside the knives and soup spoon on the right. We need not deal with dinners of many courses here, but suffice it to say that wThen these are undertaken, silver for the additional courses is laid just before they are served.

Now’ as to china, there are the two forms to be considered in Canada, the English and the American. It is the American custom to have at every place before any serving whatever is done, what is called a “service plate.” In this, rests at first the serviette and later the soup, the hors d’oeuvres or the shellfish,

In tiie English form, there is no "service plate,” strictly speaking. The soup is served directly on the board in its own dish. In the case of a fruit cocktail, this is always found in its glass upon a plate when t he diners reach the table. And then there is the matter of bread-andbutter plates. Certainly butter must nex er appear at anything approaching a formal dinner, and by that you may understand, any sort of dinner at which invited guests are present. The presence of bread-and-butter plates may be admitted, but the presence of butter knives is bad form, even according to tiie American custom which sanctions the plates alone. The English form

excludes the plate as well as the knife, i There is something to be said for the use of the plate, however, one must admit. Anyone who has faced the problem of olive pits and no definite place for their disposal, knows the comfort of the little plate on which they may be conveniently laid, without the business of resting them temporarily > on fork-prong and bread until they may be finally deposited in the plate which is being carried away. And the matter of where to place salt for celery is another trying one—a soup plate hardly suffices. The bread-and-butter plate may appear at luncheon, as may the knife and the dainty rolled balls of hard butter. In this case their knives may be laid along the side of the plate or beside them.

As to your glasses, their number and J their significance must rest with you. I If it is not your custom to serve wine,

two glasses are usually sufficient; one tumbler or goblet for iced water, the other for charged. At present one wine is considered quite enough for the ordinary dinner, preferably a white one. In this case, the wine glass will take the place of your charged water. For champagne, the flat rather open cup is the oldest form, although the closer and more gobletted glasses with hollow stems are now much used and are good taste. In champagne glasses may also be served sauterne and other white wines. For sherry, claret and port other smaller glasses are required. The study of wine glasses is one which you will have to work out for yourself, and knowledge

which you can acquire in any shop where the different glasses are displayed. In placing glasses on the cover, arrange them directly above the ends of the knives.

As to the accessories of the table, outside the actual setting of the covers, there are a few supplementary dishes which may be included. These are the bon-bon dishes, the relishes such as olives and celery, and salted nuts, preferably almonds. A table should never be loaded down with odd bits simply for the sake of display, and nothing so brands a hostess as the meaningless over-setting of her table for the sake of ostentation. The little individual nut dishes at each place are now very smart and are accepted as good form. The individual salt and pepper service is also used, but is really not such good form as the service of perhaps two or

our at convenient corners of the table for the use of all. It should be remembered, however, if providing the individual salt cellars, to provide also the individual salt spoons. Little ash trays may be placed at each cover when laid, if you wish. These are now considered by many hostesses more or less of a necessity.

In table decoration, your aim should be always the effect of daintiness and freshness as well as color. Of late, the tendency has been toward more vivid effects than in the older and more delicate treatments. The advent of the colored glasses has had much to do with vivifying table dressing, as well as the increased knowledge among women in their homes in matters of color building. Even linen is embroidered in color to enhance these effects. Too great departures should not be made in carrying out schemes, although seasonal and personal favors when not too large or too extreme are in good taste when the dinner is given for some special occasion. Place

cards may either be decorated or plain. When plain they should be the fine blank cards used for engraving. Your central motif may be flowers or fruit, surrounded by covered or uncovered candles. Blossoms with a heavy scent should be avoided, although nothing is more delightful than the refreshing breath of Freesia, Narcissus or Poeticus. Do not select such flowers as lilies or hyacinths, from which the fragrance may become cloying. Heavy, thick bunches of blooms must be avoided. Graceful, sparse blossoms with ferns or other delicate greenery should be your choice, for guests must be able to see one another and converse across the board with unhampered vision.

When a hostess has achieved a beautiful and correctly appointed table, half her battle is won. Add to this her knowledge of the interesting and varied menu, and you have named the two premier assets in the development of her social success.