Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A good meal ought to begin with hunger

As I am preparing for the dinner party of the season for my up coming birthday, I thought I should explore the importance of meals.


One important consideration with regard to meals is their regularity, and, speaking from the health point of view, it is most essential. A meal that we have waited for an hour too long is often one that we fail to appreciate; and while to the healthy irregularity is dangerous, to the delicate it is injurious. It is not difficult to determine what are the best and most convenient times to take our meals, and when once these hours are fixed, the next thing is to insist on punctuality, not only for those who serve them, but for those for whom they are prepared.

Whoops. Here we get a big F. Our breakfast and lunch are usually around the same time but due to the variety of different things going on at night time, dinner is anywhere from 6.30 to 9.30.

There are few general rules which apply equally to mansion and cottage. However simple may be the meal, and however coarse in texture the cloth, it should be clean, free from creases, and arranged smoothly with the centre fold forming a true line the whole length of the table. The knives should be clean, bright and sharp, and the silver clean and well polished. When properly trained servants are kept, contrary conditions seldom exist; neither would they in small households, where the work devolves upon an inexperienced housemaid, if a few simple rules were strictly enforced, such as removing the crumbs and folding the cloth on the table, instead of allowing it to be shaken and folded outside the room; that after each meal all knives should be cleaned and made ready for use; and, what is still more important, that such articles as silver-plated dishes, spoons, etc., should be washed separately with soap and hot water, and well polished with a leather. Apart from the fact that silver thus treated always presents a bright and well-preserved appearance, there is the further consideration of the silver being kept in good condition without a frequent application of plate powder, which, however fine it may be, ultimately destroys the plated surface.

My silver is a little less than shiny, but it's going to get a good going over before Saturday.

An asbestos-felt or baize under-cloth for dining-tables cannot be too strongly recommended, for it enables the table-cloth to lie better, and the latter is more pleasant to the touch with some soft, thick substance beneath it. Sometimes the baize is drawn under the edges of the table by means of a string run through the hem, but it may be stretched more tightly when fastened underneath with small tacks, and this without the least injury to the table. Grey felt is preferred by many, because it is less likely to stain the cloth than a coloured substance, and is also less expensive.

Some of you may know baize as the stuff on pool tables. I wouldn't recommend asbestos cloth for my dining table, but it is still available for purchase - mostly from China. I believe it is illegal in Australia however.

Tablecloths and table-napkins should be of as good a quality as means will afford, and alike in design.

I just bought new napkins, however they are in a complementary colour as my table cloth is a bed sheet.

Table-linen whould be very lightly starched, for, if made too stiff, the corners of the tablecloths, instead of falling in natural folds, stand out in an awkward fashion, and the table-napkins are unpleasant to use.

A good rule is to allow 24 inches for each person's accommodation. Where the table is necessarily a little too large, a little more room does not matter, but on no account give less, for there is no greater misery than a crowded table.

Right-o, off home to measure my table and to do some calculations.

1 comment:

Packrat said...

Oops. Failure on consistent dinner time, also. Our eating time is just about the same as yours.

I love how Mrs. Beeton always refers to household help. Obviously, she never lived in the "Outback" or the "wild wooly West (US)". Truly I guess there isn't any reason why we can't set a nice looking table, tho. And, there isn't any excuse for a dirty table cloth or spotted eating utensils. I do love using cloth napkins.

Hint: A piece of flannel (pajama fabric), a plain white sheet, or really light quilt batting makes a great table protector under a table cloth.