The Trials Of Hostessing

  I never knew that the hostess getting up from the table was so disrupting to her guests. I’ll have to remember that and keep my butt firmly planted on the chair the next time we have a party. Hah!

Here are a few more tidbits from the “Responsibilities of a Hostess” chapter in the 1963 edition of “Emily Post Meal Time Etiquette.” I promise to space them out for the future, but felt the information in this chapter was particularly helpful for women who may be hostessing at upcoming holiday events.

Role of Daughter in Helping the Hostess

If there is a daughter in the family old enough to be responsible for serving and clearing the table between courses and at the end of the meal, she should be trained to do so, when there is no maid service. Her brief absence from the table will not be as disrupting as when the hostess leaves. Also, in learning how to serve properly she not only will develop a poise and graciousness of her own, but will be prepared to train others in the art of table service when the need arises. To become proficient enough to be at ease when guests are present, she should practice by serving the family regularly.

Correct Procedures in Serving and Removing

In serving and removing dishes, you serve and remove everything except beverages from the left with the left hand. Beverages are served from the right with the right hand, and beverage cups and glasses as well as unused silver on the right of the plate are removed from the right with the right hand. Of course, if circumstances make it difficult to follow this rule, it is best to use common sense. The purpose of the rule is to avoid having the person who serves reaching across the person being served and perhaps jogging him with an elbow.

When dishes are served from the kitchen or a side table, only two should be brought to the table at one time. With plates, the first one served is the plate in the left hand; the one is the right hand is then passed to the left hand before serving the next person. The reverse is true in removing soiled dishes. One is removed from the left with the left hand, then passed to the right hand and then the second dish removed with the left hand. The same pattern is followed on the right side, using the right hand for removal of items on that side.

When Gentlemen Need Not Rise

Exacting etiquette demands that gentleman rise when ladies depart from or approach the table. However, in the interest of less confusion, the hostess should insist that this courtesy be dispensed with when she or any other female member of the family leaves the table for serving duties.

It is the hostess’ responsibility to keep conversation going, and if need be, to steer it toward pleasant, uncontroversial subjects.

Presenting the Dish

When food is brought to the table by a servant, it is quite proper for the dish to be presented first to the hostess (or host) for inspection before serving. Following the rule that the hostess is not served first, the first person to be served is the lady guest of honor. Then the person on her right is served next, and so on around the table, skipping the hostess until next to last, and then finally serving the host.

If the group is very large, duplicate service may be used in both directions. After the honored lady has been served, one dish is served to her right and one to her left, skipping the host until last.

Serving at the Table

… It is the hostess’ responsibility to see that food service moves along in good order, whether it is she who serves or someone else. As each course is finished, she will see that the table is properly cleared. Before the dessert course, the table should be cleared completely of everything except decorations, water glasses and whatever is needed for the dessert course. The table or tablecloth may need to be crumbed at this time. (If a crumber is not available, crumbs may be slid off the edge of the table with a napkin, onto a small plate, as for instance, a salad plate.