The breakfast table should be simply decorated, yet it may be made very attractive with its snowy cloth and napkins, its array of glass, and its ornamentation of fruits and flowers. Bread should be placed upon the table, cut in slices. In eating, it must always be broken, never cut, and certainly not bitten. Fruit should be served in abundance at breakfast whenever practicable. There is an old adage which declares that “fruit is gold in the morning, silver at noon, and lead at night.”
In many of our large cities, where business prevents the head of the family from returning to dinner until a late hour, luncheon is served about midday and serves as an early dinner for children and servants. There is much less formality in the serving of lunch than of dinner. It is all placed upon the table at once, whether it consists of one or more courses. Where only one or two are at luncheon, the repast is ordinarily served on a tray.
The private family dinner should be the social hour of the day. Then parents and children should meet together, and the meal should be of such length as to admit of the greatest sociality. It is an old saying that chatted food is half digested. The utmost good feeling should prevail among all. Business and domestic cares and troubles should be, for the time, forgotten, and the pleasures of home most heartily enjoyed. In another chapter we have spoken at length upon fashionable dinner parties.
THE KNIFE AND FORK.
The knife and fork were not made for playthings, and should not be used as such when people are waiting at the table for the food to be served. Do not hold them erect in your hands at each side of your plate, nor cross them on your plate when you have finished, nor make a noise with them. The knife should only be used for cutting meats and hard substances, while the fork, held in the left hand, is used in carrying food into the mouth. A knife must never, on any account, be put into the mouth. When you send your plate to be refilled, do not send your knife and fork, but put them upon a piece of bread, or hold them in your hand.
To put large pieces of food into your mouth appears greedy, and if you are addressed when your mouth is so filled, you are obliged to pause, before answering, until the vast mouthful is masticated, or run the risk of choking, by swallowing it too hastily. To eat very fast is also a mark of greediness, and should be avoided. The same may be said of soaking up gravy with bread, scraping up sauce with a spoon, scraping your plate and gormandizing upon one or two articles of food only.