Here’s some hundred-year-old advice for where to serve the first course of a dinner:
Before answering this question specifically let us first say that there is no special course which is invariably the “first course of a dinner.” The first course may be shell fish; it may be soup; it may be the chief meat dish –according to the number of courses served and formality of the dinner. But whatever may be the first course, there is only one place where it should be eaten, and this is at the dining-room table in the dining-room.
During recent years, however, the custom has arisen of serving a small portion of some sapid and well-relished food, whose function of to stimulate appetite, as a beginning to the dinner. This beginning is not thought of as one of the courses, it is too unsubstantial, and the frilly little morsels used for this purpose are listed under the headings: “Some Beginnings,” “Appetizers,” “avani-diners,” or other similar phrase. A salpicon, which, correctly, is a very small portion, no more than a good tablespoonful, is an example of such a beginning. So is a canape. So used to be the original cocktail. At a gentlemen’s dinner it used to be customary to have canapes and coctails passed in the library soon after the guests assembled. Canapes were, then the crisp and crusty morels which could be eaten from the fingers; and cocktails were composed of ingredients now under legal ban.
At present our cocktails are of two kinds: the semi-solid kind, calling for the use of a fork, such as the oyster cocktail, which is really one of the courses, since it is only a new fashion of serving the shellfish. The place to eat this is in the dining-room. The other kind of cocktail is made of fruit juice or a mixture of fruit juices, etc., and this, according to a late fashion, is brought to the drawing-room, or wherever the guests are assembled–and now that guests are not expected to arrive on the stroke of the minute-hand, it helps the pleasant passing of a period of waiting for some belated one, to sip the cocktail during the quarter of an hour allowed after the time named for the dinner.
American Cookery (March, 1922)