MODERN AMERICAN INFORMAL SERVICE
This is a family-oriented style of serving that also works for informal company in the absence of a server. The first course may be placed on the table before everyone is seated, or, in the case of a salad or hot soup, served at the table by the hostess. It is always passed to her left, stopping with the host. When the first course is hot, the lady guest of honor, who receives hers after the host, begins to eat immediately, thereby allowing everyone else to begin when served. When everyone at the table to the left of the hostess has been served, she passes the plates to her right, serving herself last.
The meat platter is brought to the table and placed in front of the host or on a sideboard or small table next to him. The vegetables and accompaniments are set in front of the hostess. If there are eight people, four plates are placed by the meat and four by the vegetables. The host carves and portions, while, at the other end, the hostess fills hers. The plates are then passed to the left for the other to complete. As the plates circle the table, the first completed plates stops at the lady guest of honor, who immediately begins to eat. This procedure moves the hot food quickly from platters to plates, ensuring the guests the enjoyment of a hot meal.
After the entrée, or salad, if your custom is to serve it before dessert, the table is cleared and dessert, coffee, cream and sugar are placed on the table. Dessert is portioned and passed as before by the hostess. Coffee may be poured and served by the lady guest of honor.