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How to Prepare and Serve a Meal; and Interior Decoration

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Before the meal which is to be served comes from the kitchen by way of the butler's pantry to the dining room, there are many things to be considered. The preparation of the meal (not the process of its cooking, but its planning as a composite whole) and all the various details which precede the actual sitting down at the table of those who expect to enjoy it, must be seen to. The preparation of the meal, its menu, will be dealt with later, in connection with the meal itself. For the present we will concentrate on its preparatory aspects.


The butler's pantry is the connecting link between kitchen and dining room. It is at the same time an arsenal and a reserve line, equipped with requisites to meet all emergencies. The perfect butler's pantry should contain everything, from vegetable brushes for cleaning celery to a galvanized refuse can. In between come matches, bread boards, soap, ammonia and washing soda, a dish drainer, every kind of towel, cheesecloth and holder, strainers (for tea, coffee and punch), ice water, punch and soup pitchers of enamel ware, the tools and seasonings for salad making, cut-glass brushes, and knives of different sizes.

In the butler's pantry the soiled linen should be kept, if possible in a hamper, if not, in a bag. There should also be a towel rack, an electric or hot-water heater for keeping food hot and—we are speaking of the ideal pantry, of course—a small icebox where table butter, cream and salad dressing may be kept, and plates chilled for serving cold dishes. Adding a linen closet with shelves, a chest of drawers (for tablecloths, napkins, doilies, centerpieces, etc.) and the necessary shelves for china and glass (hang your cups and save space!), and we may leave the butler's pantry and enter the dining room.


We will not waste time on directions regarding the laying of the tablecloth. Only remember that it must form a true line through the center of the table (your "silence cloth" had best be of table padding, a doubled cotton flannel or asbestos) and not hang below the table less than nine inches. The usual arrangement of the centerpiece in the center of the table (the table itself being immediately under the light, unless the waitress is thereby prevented from moving between the table and sideboard) with its dish of fruit or ferns or flowers (never so high as to cut off view or conversation) can be varied to suit individual taste. But the covers (the plates, glasses, napkin and silver of each individual) must always be in line, opposite each other on the opposite sides of the table. The plate doilies indicate the covers when a bare table is laid. The service plate which each person receives stays where put unless it is replaced by a hot plate.


Napkins (fold flat and square) lie at the left of the forks. The hem of the napkin, turned up, should parallel the forks and the table edge....