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Service à la française (French: "service in the French style") is the practice of serving various dishes of a meal at the same time, in contrast to service à la russe, where the dishes are brought sequentially and served individually (French: "service in the Russian style").
From the Middle Ages and until the 19th century, formal dinners were served in this way.
The meal is divided into three services:
- soup and fish,
With the following principles: Each service includes a variety of dishes, all served at the same time at the table with desserts and appetizers, including cake, guests gather around the table and serve themselves standing by choosing foods that suit them. The table is set and served before the arrival of guests, the waiters serving dishes emptied progressively. They relate to others in the freed space for a table always served.
However, unless the kitchen and staff are enormous in relation to the number of persons being served, it is impossible for all dishes to be perfectly hot and ready to consume. Furthermore, it is impossible for the diners to consume each dish when it is at its peak. Thus, modern fine-dining restaurants provide dishes sequentially, so that they may be enjoyed individually – a style called service à la russe.
A modified form of service à la française in which several large dishes are brought out for each diner to help themselves from is known as "family-style" in less formal restaurants.
The buffet style is essentially a variation of the French service in which all of the food is available, at the correct temperature, in a serving space other than the dining table, and guests commute there to be served or sometimes to serve themselves, and then carry their plate back to the table. Buffets vary from the very informal (a gathering of friends in a home, or the serving of brunch at a hotel) to the rather formal setting of a wedding reception, for example. The buffet format is preferred in occasions where a very large number of guests are to be accommodated efficiently by a reasonably sized number of service personnel.
- Service à la Russe CuisineNet. Retrieved: 2012-12-01.
- All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present by Stephen Mennell. University of Illinois, 1995.
- The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners by Margaret Visser. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.
- Food in History by Reay Tannahill. New York: Crown, 1995.
- Patrick Rambourg, Histoire de la cuisine et de la gastronomie françaises, Paris, Ed. Perrin (coll. tempus n° 359), 2010, 381 pages. ISBN 978-2-262-03318-7 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]