“Napkins are put at the side only when it is necessary to put food on the table before seating the guests. To put the napkin at the side of the empty plate in order to display the plate is very much like wearing a ring over a glove...
The old custom of wrapping a roll in the napkin was most impractical. When the diner flicked open the napkin, he generally also flicked the roll right onto the floor.”
I RECENTLY got my hands on an old, "50th Anniversary Edition" of Emily Post's Etiquette. I'd been enjoying flipping through the manual with--at times--a bit of hilarity (GIFTS TO AVOID ... the cruelty involved in unsolicited gifts of baby ducklings and rabbits at Easter should be obvious... SUGGESTED GIFTS FOR ... a nun [top suggestion] Check or cash). But I've also found some inspiring tips as well:
FINISHING THE TABLE ... Dishes or compotes filled with candy, fruit, fancy cakes, or other edible trimmings are put at the corners, between the candlesticks or candelabra and the centerpiece... They are left there through the entire meal and are sometimes passed around after dessert is finished. Nuts may be put on the dinner table [in small individual dishes at each of the places], but they are removed with the salt and pepper shakers after the salad course... Olives and celery are passed during the soup course and placed on the edge of the plate under the soup plate.
WINES ... Sherry is the first wine offered at dinner, and then usually only with a soup which contains sherry in the preparation... [It] should be put into a decanter at room temperature and poured into small V-shaped glasses... Sherry, which is also served at lunch or supper, or as a hospitable refreshment at any time, is often included as an alternate choice with cocktails. (and remember to have some tomato juice on hand for those that aren't cocktailing)