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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Breakfast, Luncheon, And Tea Etiquette

( Originally Published 1902 )

The hour at which breakfast shall be served is governed entirely by the habits and tastes of the family. Where it is very late, it is often preceded by the sending of coffee or tea, rolls and eggs in some form, to the bed rooms, the family, in such a case, not coming down to a general meal till about noon. Breakfast, however, is served in the same manner whether the hour be early or late, and this meal should always be quite free from formality.

A tea and coffee tray should be placed in front of the mistress of the house. It is quite within the rules of breakfast etiquette for people to wait on themselves and to help each other, and as the bread, small dishes, etc., are frequently on the side table, this is a very convenient fashion. One servant is enough in the dining-room in the morning, even though a larger number may be retained.

Ordinary courses for breakfast consist of three or four, such as hominy or oatmeal first, then eggs, meat, or ham, and the chief portion of the food, followed by griddle-cakes and finally fruit. Toast should be freshly made, and sent up from time to time while the breakfast goes on. It should be always hot, as cold toast is never palatable.


In imitation of the French, the meal which in our country is usually called "lunch" or "luncheon," is sometimes de signated as "breakfast." It may either be formal, resembling a dinner, or informal, like the breakfast just described. It is served between 12:30 and 1:30, and the hostess may make it as simple or as elegant as she chooses. A formal luncheon party, however, differs little, if at all, from a dinner. If the occasion is a ceremonious one, the table is set in the same manner as for a dinner, and the dishes are handed by the servants ; but the guests enter separately, instead of arm in arm.

At a large lunch-party either one long table, or several little ones, may be used. If the latter method is preferred, take care that the servants have ample room to pass between them. E ach plate should have beside it two knives, two forks, one or two spoons, and a water-goblet.

The first course should consist of fruit or of raw oysters, or of bouillon or chicken consomme, served in cups set on plates, and provided with teaspoons.

This course is followed by an entree, chops with one or two vegetables, game or chicken, and salad, with sweets, candies, fruits, etc. Black coffee is usually served after luncheon.

In an informal lunch, if the hostess prefers, the sweets may be placed on the table in advance; but vegetables must be served from the side-board, and the chops, cold meats, etc., should be served by the hostess. Yet at such luncheons vegetables are frequently omitted, and in the selection of dishes the greatest latitude of choice is permissible. Among those most frequently served may be named oysters, croquettes, French chops, cold meats, beefsteak, fish, omelettes and salads.

At formal luncheons a bouquet for each lady is sometimes provided, they being grouped as an ornament in the centre of the table, and distributed after the meal. The custom is a pretty one, and worth encouraging. Occasionally, also, some pretty trifle is given to each guest as a memento of the occasion, but there is no obligation for this to be done.

Guests should be punctual in attendance on such an occasion, or send word promptly if prevented, by some sudden occurrence, from coming. Either a white or figured table-cloth may be used, but it must be one that will wash.

These are rules which etiquette and good breeding demand shall be observed, not alone at luncheon, but at all meals. The table is the social centre, and it is essential that those who gather around it shall conform themselves to the most approved rules of good society. A knowledge of table etiquette is very desirable to possess, since many regard it as one of the surest tests of good breeding. It is at the dinner table, however, that strict rules of observance become indispensible. There is much more freedom allowable at the earlier meals of the day, and a digest of table rules may be left till we come to speak of the principal meal.

It may be said, however, in regard to conversation at the lunch table, that both etiquette and good breeding forbid indulgence in gossip, particularly in any sense ill-natured, and nothing can be more ill-bred than to make, after the meal, carping criticisms on the hostess and the entertainment she has provided.

Teas and Afternoon Receptions.

These are among the most informal entertainments given, and the difference between a large afternoon tea and an afternoon reception is little more than the name, though the latter is perhaps a shade more formal. They frequently take place at the same hour, and the character of the invitations and entertainments differ very little.

The day and hour of an afternoon tea may be written on a visiting card. For an afternoon reception, an " At Home " card is used. No answer need be sent to such an invitation, unless one is particularly requested, which is not ordinarily the rule.

It is necessary to speak to the host and hostess immediately upon entering the room, but owing to the constantly moving crowd it is not essential that guests should again address the host and hostess when they are about to leave.

The length of stay can vary from five minutes to an hour at an afternoon reception, but at an evening reception the time is usually more extended.

Only simple refreshments should be served at an afternoon tea. Thin slices of bread and butter, sandwiches, fancy biscuit or cake, tea, coffee, or chocolate, ice cream, and bouillon are offered. Punch and lemonade-but no wine of any kind-may be added if desired; and also salted almonds, cakes, candies, and other dainty trifles. English breakfast tea is now preferred, served with cream and white sugar, or slices of lemon for those who like tea made in the Russian style.

At an afternoon reception the table may be supplied with oyster-salads, pates, boned turkey, ice-cream, coffee, and bonbons.

For a reception music is desirable, as it adds greater brilliancy to the entertainment. The hostess should shake hands with her guests and receive them cordially; any formality is out of place on an informal occasion.

If the number of guests is small, the hostess should walk about the room, talking with her visitors; if large, she should remain near the door, and have the aid of other ladies, who should entertain the guests, ask them to take refreshments, and make introductions when necessary.

At a large and elegant afternoon reception the windows may be darkened, the gas lighted, and musicians employed, if the hostess desires.

What is known as a high tea is a meal taking the place of a dinner, at which hot meats, cakes, warm breads, preserves and other sweets are served. Such teas are more popular in the country than in town.

At the informal tea, of which it is the custom to partake at about five o'clock in many households, a tray is brought in to the mistress of the house, and placed before her on a small table. This tray should contain a tea-service, cups, saucers, etc. The

lady herself makes the tea, pours it out, and passes it to the members of the family or the visitors who may chance to be present. The servant brings in thin slices of bread and butter, cake, and, perhaps, English muffins, which are usually served with the cup of tea at this hour.


Supper, as a rule, is similar to dinner, and unless served at a ball or as a part of some other entertainment has very much the character of that meal. After the theatre or opera, people frequently indulge in some refreshment which may or may not be dignified by the name of supper.


If one person gives a picnic he must provide everything, the modes of conveyance to the place selected, the refreshments, entertainment, etc., but if several join in this the labor and expense should be equally divided.

The refreshments should consist chiefly of cold dishes, such as meats, boned turkey, sandwiches, salads, cakes, jellies, pies, etc., with lemonade, or such other drinks as may seem desirable. Hot dishes are sometimes served, prepared at a neighboring house.

Picnics are often so arranged that each lady attending furnishes a dish of some kind. In this way all the refreshments can be provided without any difficulty.

Sometimes a wooden platform is erected, and dancing is the chief amusement after eating.

A picnic generally lasts from about noon until twilight, and the best season of the year for such an entertainment is when it is pleasant to be out of doors.

Sufficient china, glass, etc., should always be provided, though they should be of a plain and inexpensive kind, for fear of breakage.

Theatre Parties.

A dinner, either at home or at a restaurant, is frequently followed by a visit to the theatre or the opera. In such a case it is proper for the one who gives the theatre party to invite an equal number of ladies and gentlemen, a proper chaperon, of course, being provided. If the party are to dine together before going to the play, half-past six is usually the hour appointed, whether the dinner is to take place in a private house or in a restaurant. If there is to be no dinner, some house is selected where the guests assemble at a proper hour to reach the theatre in time.

It is customary, when you invite married people or gentlemen to the opera, to send them their tickets so that they may join you at the opera house, unless for some reason you wish to go with them. Unmarried ladies are usually asked to dine by their friends and go with them from their home. Suppers are rarely given after the opera, owing to the lateness of the hour. If the party did not dine together, however, it is customary for the host or hostess to give the guests a supper somewhere after the play.

It is the duty of the chaperon to see the unmarried ladies safely home.


The word chaperon is French, and signifies a married lady, or one of sufficient age and dignity to accompany an unmarried one with propriety to any reputable entertainment.

Her services may be called upon, not alone for theatres, operas, concerts, balls, or other evening entertainments, but are demanded on many occasions during the day. No party of any kind which includes both sexes should be formed unless some married lady has charge of it.

The greatest courtesy and deference to a chaperon should always be manifested by the young ladies and gentlemen under her charge. Indifferent civility in this respect is the height of ill-breeding.

When an older lady passes a younger one in a ball-room and bows, the younger one should never remain seated when returning such a mark of recognition.

In leaving a room simultaneously, younger and unmarried ladies should always stand aside until the older or married ones have passed out.

The chaperon should behave with dignity, while being as genial and agreeable to the younger members of her party as possible. She should see that the unmarried ladies she has charge of reach home safely, and never leave them to a chance escort, no matter how tired she may be. One can never be too sure but that young girls may be exposed to unpleasant situations, if left without a companion of judgment and experience.

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