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Arranging the Meal: A History of Table Service in France

by Jean-Louis Flandrin Julie E. Johnson Antonio Roder Sylvie Roder Beatrice Fink

The sequence in which food has been served at meals has changed greatly over the centuries and has also varied from one country to another, a fact noted in virtually every culinary history. Most food writers have treated the more significant alterations as stand-alone events. The most famous example of such a change occurred in the nineteenth century, when service a la francaise--in which the stunning presentation made a great show but diners had to wait to be served--gave way to service a la russe, in which platters were passed among diners who served themselves. But in Arranging the Meal, the late culinary historian Jean-Louis Flandrin argues that such a change in the order of food service is far from a distinct event. Instead he regards it as a historical phenomenon, one that happened in response to socioeconomic and cultural factors--another mutation in an ever-changing sequence of customs. As France's most illustrious culinary historian, Flandrin has become a cult figure in France, and this posthumous book is not only his final word but also a significant contribution to culinary scholarship. A foreword by Beatrice Fink places Flandrin's work in context and offers a personal remembrance of this French culinary hero.

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