This article from the Sydney Morning Herald of 15 December 1915 dealt with the dilemma of how to set the table  on Christmas Day when the maid has boldly gone on holiday.  Amongst other things the water glasses are never to be filled before the meal! And never, ever do the “picnic stretch”.

To read the article on TROVE click here.

For a dinner party of the “plain” or “family” type, which many people affect on Christmas Day, there will be no waiting, if the “one and only” maid has gone on holiday: the waiting must be done by the diners themselves. This is the test of the hostess, for a self-run dinner is apt to lend itself to fusslness.

It is much better to let things “hang fire” a little, and keep the conversation on a cheerful and unflurrled level, than to rush hither thither and fuss, and fume, a process which makes everybody thoroughly uncomfortable.

By setting the table a little more carefully with a view to each guest helping himself as much as possible, an unwaited-upon dinner becomes more possible. If several salt cellars and pepper pots replace the heavier cruets, the “picnic stretch,” which, though “all right’ out of doors, is not elegant at the festive board, may be avoided. Individual salts and peppers are often seen in private houses now. Then a reinforcement of rolls or bread slices should be all ready to replace those in use, if needed.

the “picnic stretch,” which, though “all right’ out of doors, is not elegant at the festive board, may be avoided.

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One of the several cruet sets in our collection. A set usually held containers for oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard. This cruet set was donated by the Pretty family.

Goblets, instead of tumblers, very often grace a dinner table now, and they are decidedly prettier. They are used for water, or it may be claret. It such is required. Some people fill the water glasses beforehand; but this has a most depressing effect of literally “throwing cold water” on the festivity. If water bo tho only drink, it Is wiser not to obtrude it.

Some people fill the water glasses beforehand; but this has a most depressing effect of literally “throwing cold water” on the festivity.

Tureen-1
This small tureen set would have been used in many of these types of dinners. It is a fine example of ‘flow blue’, ‘semi porcelain’ Burleigh ware from Staffordshire, England. The set comprises a small tureen, lid and plate in the Oxford pattern. It was produced between 1913 and 1918.

If soup form the first course, let It be placed on the table ready for each guest. This saves much confusion and clashing of plates. But it should not be dished up until just before the diners sit down, as soup should be hot, not warm. Even in summer this rule holds, unless Iced soup be one of the attractions of the meal. The knives on the right hand, forks on the left, and dessert spoon and fork at the head of the knives and forks, should be In place. If even only one servant be in attendance, the dessert cutlery should not be placed on the table at all, but handed to each diner on a pudding plate.

“Ladles first” no longer holds sway as a rule.

The host carves the joint or turkey, and passes each plate, beglnning on the right side. “Ladles first” no longer holds sway as a rule. It is more convenient, it the party be a large one, to serve straight down the table. This rule is also followed when the carving is done in the pantry.

Serving_dish
The joint would have been carved on a large serving platter like this one from the collection at the Moruya Museum. This platter, made in the late 1800s was one of the first produced under the Anthony Hordern name.

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