Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Elaborate Breakfast Feast

It's been a while since we've done a Southern Cookin' post, and so today we've got a delicious meal prepared for you--this time with a twist. Up to this point, we've largely focused on the recipes behind classic Southern cooking. But dining in the Gone with the Wind era was truly an event unto itself, one that included not only the intricate preparation of multiple-course meals but also the exacting presentation of food and elaborate rules for how to dine in style. 

And so today we are taking a look at the table set-up and serving instructions for a breakfast party for 10 guests (tip #1: always be sure to set to two extra plates just in case there are any last minute drop-ins). Arguably the least complicated meal of the day, even breakfast came with precise rules about how to lay out the table and, of course, the proper way to serve the six-course feast that would follow. The table diagram and corresponding instructions come to you courtesy of The Dixie cook-book, published in Atlanta in 1883. Check it out and behold the dizzying array of cutlery, china, waiter instructions, and dining etiquette the Southern hostess was expected to master.

Summer Breakfast for Ten. (Two Reserved Plates)

First Course, Melon — When table is laid (see diagram) guests enter and take seats. Waiters place tea and coffee urns and bring melon. The gentleman serving asks each guest if he will be helped to melon. If the answer be yes, waiter receives plate from server and hands to guest, exchanging plate and returning empty plate to server, who places melon on it for another guest and so on. As soon as all are served, or have refused a second helping, the waiter removes the remains of the melon, and replaces it with dish for second course. The lady at the head of the table asks each guest to partake of tea, coffee, or chocolate. If any accept, waiter receives it and hands to guest. Asking guests to take tea etc., in first course, is a mere matter of form, as it is seldom taken until second course. Still the question must be asked, and waiter ready to serve it.

Second Course — In the place of melon, a dish of fish — fried perch, smelts, trout, or whatever is selected. Sauce Tartare is a proper accompaniment. Decorate dish of fish with shrimps or olives cut in half, or with little bunches of parsley with shrimp placed on it. Waiters also remove first set of dessert plates used for melon, and replace with a size larger, medium breakfast plates. The waiter then receives a supply of fish from the person who serves it, hand to the guests, receiving empty plates, and helping guests to what accompaniments they desire. Another waiter asks if guest will take coffee or tea, and supplies it from party serving it. Potatoes are handed round (with either meat or fish.) If two kinds, present one in each hand for guest to help himself.

Third Course — Young chicken sauced with cream gravy, surrounded with potatoes a la neige. Waiter removes fish of second course, and replaces with young chicken, then attends to wants of guests as in second course, remembering to ask each if he will take tea or coffee; also asking each if he will take his tea or coffee warmer. Clean plates same size as for second course, must be applied to each guest. 

Fourth Course — Poached eggs on toast, or anchovy toast. Waiter removes chicken and replaces it with dish of poached eggs, and tarnishes clean plates. Party serving asks each guest if he can help him, and waiters serve so in the other cases. Lady dispensing tea or coffee asks guests if they will be helped to warmer tea or coffee. If any one accepts, waiter hands clean cups and saucers from the sideboard to lady serving and then hands it to the guest. If milk is asked for he procures from sideboard and hands to the guest. Waiter also watches the guests and supplies them with hot cakes, receiving a dish of hot ones for that purpose every five minutes, handing dish of cakes to guest who helps himself.

Fifth Course Little fillets of porter house steak with tomatoes a la mayonnaise. Waiter puts on steak in place of plate of poached eggs, and caters to wants of guests as before. While guests are eating this course, the waiters or an extra waiter, as quietly as possible relieve the table of the castor, pickles, sauces, dressing and butter. But not till the last moment must this be done, at the same time asking the guests if they require more. The dessert or rather fruit, sixth course, is then brought in and placed where steak was; arrange as quickly as possible, the service remaining on the table in neat order, remove each guest's plate, and again furnish dessert plates. At a signal from lady at head of table, waiter hands around fruit to guests, each guest supplying himself, unless the person before serving the other dishes serves this, in which case waiter supplies each as before. Waiter also supplies each guest with tea or coffee, and hands around cake, biscuit, etc. At this course a finger glass should be supplied to each guest.

Sixth Course — Peaches quartered, sweetened or half frozen or any fruit decided upon. Carry out the instructions given in the fifth course. In some breakfasts order is reversed, and fruit is served in first course only. In this case various fruits are placed on table, and allowed to remain till end of breakfast so that guests may partake at any time. In first class breakfasts fruit forms the first and last course, but waiters should be instructed beforehand, which plan is to be followed. 
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