PART II: WHITE HOUSE FORMAL DINNERS

LAYING THE TABLE

a8cccc31ec8a0205c9b094a4d771d07fAs in the previous post, “It’s a White House State Dinner —& You’re Invited!” the following details are from the White House Cookbook, © 1877 & 1914 and describe the protocol and etiquette of the time. (However, in the world of formal dining, customs change very slowly through the years.)

Arrangement of Glasses

The diagram below shows how the glasses for water, white and red wine, and champagne are arranged at a place setting.  The circle labeled is the plate.

I= Glass for Sauterne                             IV=Glass for Water
II= Glass for Sherry                                V= Glass for Champagne
III= Glass for Rhine Wine                     VI = Glass for Burgundy

 

Linens, Centerpiece, Silverware

(From The White House Cookbook, © 1877)

In laying the table for dinner, all the linen should be a spotless white throughout, and underneath the linen tablecloth should be spread one of thick cotton flannel, which gives the linen a heavier and finer appearance, also deadning the sound of moving dishes.

Large and neatly folded napkins (ironed without starch), with pieces of bread three or four inches long, placed between the folds, but not to completely to conceal the bread, are laid on each plate.  An ornamental centerpiece, or a vase filled with a few rare flowers, is put in the center of the table.

The dessert plates should be “set” and ready on the sideboard, along with extra silverware to be placed beside guests between courses, if required. A doily and finger bowl is set on each dessert plate. The finger bowl is partly filled with water and a slice of lemon.

The “dinner” may be served by the waiter either from a sidetable (where it is carved and presented on the left-hand side of each guest); or the dishes may be brought in ready-carved from the kitchen. At the end of each course the plates give way for those of the next.

Since soup and fish are the first course, plates of soup are usually placed on the table before dinner is announced; or if the host/hostess wishes the soup served at the table, the soup tureen, containing hot soup and the warm soup plates are placed before the seat of the host/hostess.  Soup and fish being disposed of then come the joints or roasts, entrees, poultry, etc. and relishes.

What’s for Dinner?

Here is one menu for a White House dinner (not a State Dinner).

Veal Soup with Croutons
Boiled Chicken with Caper Sauce

Steamed New Potatoes
Asparagus on Toast
String Beans       Young Onions
Green Gooseberry Tart    Golden Cream     Cocoanut Macaroons
Cheese
Coffee

Those White House Cooks were kept busy!

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