Georgian Extendable Table Dining
The extendable dinner table was an important stage for social theatre in Georgian England. Earlier, the main meal was held at about 12 pm, but over time this became later until it reached about 7pm. It was a lengthy and formal event often meaning that a change of clothes was necessary beforehand. Dining gave people an opportunity to socialise and exercise the art of conversation.
Food for the table
Georgian dining involved a multitude of foods; fish, meats, sweetmeats, and wines. This often meant that dining took a considerable amount of time. The Duke de la Rochefoucauld commented that,
“Dinner is one of the most wearisome of English experiences lasting, as it does four or five hours.”
Generally, the meal would consist of three courses: soup and fish, followed by cooked dishes, and completed by meats. After this, jellies, sweetmeats and fruits would be served. The fashionable style of Georgian dining was ‘service a la francaise’. This required the entire meal to be laid out on the table, so that all components were within reach of each member of the dining party. Guests would either help themselves or be served by a footman.
‘Service a la Russe’ was introduced in Paris by the Russian Ambassador c.1810. This differed by leaving the table largely empty of food dishes, and instead serving courses individually. By the end of the nineteenth century, this was the most popular way of dining.
After dessert, the ladies would withdraw to the drawing room to prepare and serve tea, whilst the gentlemen smoked and drank port. The men may then join the ladies to play cards and entertain one another before going home.
Sociability was integral to Georgian dining, and the table was one of the most important items of Georgian furniture.