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Service

Sunday, February 3, 2013

This was the Keynote Speech, delivered at the IACP Food History Symposium, “Innovation at the Table,” held at the Hagley Library and Museum, University of Delaware, September 29, 2007

First, unlike some of those attending or speaking this conference, I know practically nothing about the future, let alone the future of the food service industry. Since I have learned a little bit about its past, that will be my focus this morning. 
Second, while I did co-edit The Business of Food, a new encyclopedia for Greenwood Press, I wrote very little of it. I did, however, get to read it all, and I’m proud to say that it contains the work of a lot of food historians who are much better informed than I am. The publisher would be upset if I didn’t tell you when the book will be available, so I’ll do it now: The book should be out late this fall.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to discuss the history of food service without using some French terminology – which leads to my third confession. My French accent is horrible. Whenever possible, I will use English translations, even if that disappoints the real scholars in the room. If those of you who actually know how to speak French try to keep your snickers low enough so that those who don’t won’t catch on, I’ll be eternally grateful.

SERVICE
What food service providers do today is the result of a the innovations of a thousand generations of servers who came before them -- servers who struggled with many of the same issues we face today -- and who invented new and creative ways to deal with those issues. By studying its history, today’s food service companies can benefit from the insights of their ancient colleagues, and possibly avoid the necessity of reinventing the solutions they discovered ages ago.
The kinds of service seen today evolved along with the foods that were served in the past. When we study historical cuisines, we study their service: foods, table manners and service have always appropriate to, and reflective of, the societies they served. Looking at the way our ancestors dined in their banquets, dining habits in modern bistros and family restaurants can be better understood.
The Ancient World: Greece and Rome
The earliest written descriptions of recognizably Western dining scenes are found in the Old Testament of the Bible and in the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer. In reading them, it’s obvious that the authors were primarily concerned with the status of the diners. Until fairly recent times, writers (for the most part) did not write about ordinary, everyday life. Since they wrote for the rich and powerful, they described banquets and special occasions attended by people of high social status. Cyrus H. Gordon, in his book The Common Background of Greek and Hebrew Civilizations, noted that, “…each man got a portion commensurate with his station.” Who received which portions, and how much, was based entirely upon status. Generally, the host was the ranking personage; he received the largest and choicest portions, the “proportionate feast.”
By 400 BCE, the Greek banquet had become standardized, with a fixed structure for the items served, and the manner in which they were to be served had been established. Formal dining, as we know it, was reserved for wealthy men. These banquets were generally held in private homes, as the Greeks had very few public eating-places. The only exceptions were small stalls in the agora – the public marketplace – where a snack was more likely to be grabbed by a servant than by his master.
Greek dining rooms were small, containing couches for the guests. Rooms were described by the number of couches they contained, much as we might describe a restaurant table as a “deuce” or a “four-top.” Typically, these feasts took place in a five-couch room, with a small table in front of each couch. 
A basket containing a selection of breads, made of wheat or barley, was placed on each table. Servants brought large dishes from the kitchen and each guest chose his favorite portion, tossing scraps, shells and bones onto his own table.
The meal was divided into three sections. The first course might include fruit, poultry, salted seafood and small savory meat dishes, much like Spanish tapas, today. These light dishes were followed by heartier fare -- fresh seafood and roasted meats, such as lamb or baby goat.
After this course, the tables were whisked away with all the bones, etc., and new tables were placed before the guests. Servants circulated with towels and basins of warm water, scented with precious oils, with which the guests could clean their hands. 
Desserts -- such as dried and fresh fruits, cheeses, nuts and small pastries or other confections – came next. Wine was mixed with water, tableside, in kraters, large clay pots, shaped like wide-mouthed vases, with handles on the sides). Diluted wine was considered healthier than water alone -- and drunken behavior was discouraged (at least during the early stages of the meal).
Once again, the soiled tables were removed, signaling the end of the meal and the beginning of the symposion (a curious mixture of literary and philosophical discussions, music, acrobats and female dancers -- all accompanied by drinking of unmixed wine). So far, other than wine, I have not noticed the presence of such diversions in this symposium.
The Romans adopted – and adapted --a great deal of Greek culture, including their culinary arts, but they took Greek ideas about the meal as mere starting points. The Romans used larger amounts and varieties of seasonings, more complex recipes, more costly imported ingredients and more elaborate presentations -- the beginnings of what we would recognize as Haute Cuisine.
Unlike the Greeks, Roman families often dined together. However, strict rules governed the positions of each diner, based upon his or her status. The head of the household always had the most prestigious position. Guests, in turn, had their positions assigned according to their social rank. Even being invited to dine signaled social recognition that was much sought-after. Who one invited, who accepted an invitation, and to whom one appealed for an invitation, said much about one’s power in ancient Rome.
A Roman dining room was called a triclinium, because it contained three couches, each accommodating three diners. The three couches were arranged in a U-shaped pattern. Diners rested on their left sides, their left elbows propped up on cushions. The legs of the second diner on the couch were behind the cushion on which the first diner rested, etc. This left their right hands free to choose from sumptuous foods, each carried from the kitchen on a large platter called a discus. Each guest ate from a red pottery bowl or dish, such as the then-famous Samian ware.
A Roman dinner consisted of three courses. The first, the gustum, gustatio or promulsis, was similar to our hors d’oeuvres or first entrée. It was served with mulsum, a light wine mixed with honey. Then followed the mensae primae, or “first table” (remember, this sequence is based on the Greek banquet). A red wine, mixed with water, accompanied the mensae primae. The next course was the mensae secundae. This “second table” included a dessert of fruits and other sweets -- and the first unwatered wines of the meal. As in the Greek symposion, this was the time for serious drinking to begin.
A final note about the Romans: In order to maintain their vast empire, they built a network of roads all over Europe. At regular intervals along these roads, simple inns were established to provide food and lodging for travelers. All roads -- including our Interstates, their exit ramps festooned with gaudy signs for restaurant and motel chains – do indeed lead straight back to Imperial Rome.
Middle Ages through the Renaissance
As with Greek and Roman meals, the hierarchy of power and status were reflected in upper class medieval meals. In Anglo-Saxon times, meals were large-scale affairs, taking place in the main hall of a castle; there were no rooms reserved solely for dining. The tables consisted of immense boards laid across heavy trestles (which is the origin of the modern sense of “board,” as in “room and board”). 
The first thing placed on the table was the salt-cellar. It determined the status of all those who were to eat (salt was second only to spices as valued edible commodities in the Middle Ages). High status diners ate “above the salt,” the rest below. Only those above the salt were seated on chairs. The rest would sit on benches that were, in effect, miniature versions of the trestles and boards at which they sat.
The only implement on the table was a carving knife. Carving was a manly art, and was, at first, reserved for the person of highest status. Later, this task was given over to the “Officer of the Mouth,” the highest-ranking servant. A new concern with courtliness and manners -- if not sanitation -- demanded that the Officer of the Mouth “set never on fish, beast, or fowl more than two fingers and a thumb.” Diners brought along their own knives. They used them to cut foods into pieces small enough to be conveniently eaten with their hands.
In thirteenth-century France, sanitation began to be recognized as a desirable practice. Johannes de Garlandia defined coquinarii, cook-shops, as filthy places, selling tainted meat -- but, significantly, he also praised one place that used hot water to wash its dishes, plates and utensils. This new taste for cleanliness required that the boards used as tables in banquets be covered with a large cloth called the nappe. Its top surface was kept scrupulously clean, but the sides, where it hung down, were used for wiping of hands (which were especially greasy since they had no forks). Food was served from common bowls, called messes  -- an apt term if I ever heard one. Food was scooped, or dragged, to large dishes or trenchers (slabs of stale bread used as plates), which were shared by two or three diners.
Cook’s shops, often little more than booths set up in the market, offered a limited menu. Chaucer, in the prologue to “The Cook’s Tale,” described one of these places in what may be the very first restaurant review:
For many a pasty have you robbed of blood,
And many a Jack of Dover have you sold
That has been heated twice and twice grown cold.
From many a pilgrim have you had Christ's curse,
For of your parsley they yet fare the worse,
Which they have eaten with your stubble goose;
For in your shop full many a fly is loose.

This is the sort of review that restaurant patrons need – and are unlikely to find in Zagat – but it is the stuff of nightmares for those in the food service business.
Inns and Taverns, the descendents of Roman way-stations, were more established places of business, serving table d’ hôte (literally, “the host’s table,” the ancestor of our prix fixe menus). It was a fixed menu, at a set price, often at set times. The tavern, as a public eating-place, was significant in England but had very little presence in France at that time.
Wealthy households had a large number and variety of silver bowls, basins, pitchers and other serving vessels. Ordinary folk might have no more than a pewter mug and a black bread trencher. The display of wealth, through service wares, was only one of the ways that status could be expressed through meals. 
In the late fourteenth century, people began to think of food and its service as art forms, worthy of study and respect. Tirel, for example, collected and codified the best of Medieval cooking in his books, Le Viandier and Ménagier de Paris. A century later, Bartolomeo Sacchi (better known as Platina of Cremona) wrote On Decent Enjoyment and Good Health -- the world’s first printed food book. In it, he discussed proper manners, table etiquette, table setting and more. The book altered the way the wealthy -- who still ate with their fingers -- thought about eating and manners.
Some popular historians trace the origins of classic fine dining to a single aristocratic family of the sixteenth century, the Medicis of Florence. It has been said that, when Caterina de Medici married the future King Henri II of France, in 1533, she brought, as part of her trousseau, a small army of Italian cooks, chefs, servants and wine experts.
If Caterina introduced fine dining and its appropriate service to France (and the charming legend is by no means historically accurate), her cousin, Marie de Medici, wife of Henri IV, certainly continued her culinary mission. François La Varenne, the first great chef of France, is reputed to have received his training in her kitchens. While Tirel looked to the past for inspiration, La Varenne’s book, Le Cuisinier François (1651), marks the beginning of a more modern approach to cooking, foreshadowing Le Guide Culinaire of Escoffier, still 250 years in the future.
New table manners, beginning with Platina, were expanded during the reigns of both Medici cousins. Among the table refinements, allegedly brought to France (and later the rest of Europe) by the Medicis, were:

the ritual of washing the hands before sitting down at the table (hand washing before meals seems to have been a forgotten, then restored, practice from classical antiquity)
using a spoon for soups and other liquids;
using a fork to select food from a platter;
passing the best morsels of food to others at the table;
blowing on hot food was discouraged, as was filching extra dessert by hiding it in a napkin (apparently, some diners still felt a bit peckish after thirteen or more courses). 

Eating Utensils
The fork was used in Italy before it appeared in northern Europe. Charles V of France (1337-1380) did not use forks, nor did the Duke of Burgundy include forks in his household inventory in 1420. Bartolomeo Scappi’s 1570 book, Cooking Secrets of Pope Pius V, contains the earliest-known illustration of a fork.
The title page of the 1604 edition of Vincenz Cervio’s Il Trinciante (The Server), printed in Venice, shows a wood engraving of meats being roasted on spits and carved tableside. Of the two diners pictured, one seems to be examining a morsel skewered on the point of a knife, while the other sits patiently, his two-pronged fork awaiting the next slice of roasted bird. The illustration is a seventeenth-century snapshot of table manners in the midst of change.
Henry VIII had initiated formal, luxurious dining in England, but under his daughter Elizabeth’s rule, the practice flourished. Table manners came to be expected of refined folk. Forks were recommended for the serving of portions of meat, although there was no mention of their use as eating implements.
Men and women were seated alternately at the table. Husbands and wives shared a plate -- but it was a plate, not a trencher (guests might still be given trenchers, because the immediate family out-ranked guests, and social status still governed courtesy). Today, trenchers survive only in our term “trencherman,” for folks we’re more inclined to refer to as “gluttons.”
Spoons were the primary table utensils. Diners brought their own spoons to dinner. Silver (as in “born with a silver spoon in his mouth”) was reserved for the wealthy, which in pre-capitalist times tended to mean nobility. Lesser folk owned spoons of tin-plated iron -- or if they were truly poor, wood. The material of which one’s spoon was made determined where, relative to the salt-cellar, one got to sit -- and one’s position relative to the salt defined one’s rank. 
Early in the seventeenth century, books about table manners and the right way to serve became popular. Braithwaite’s Rules for the Governance of the House of an Earl (1617) listed spoons and knives as essentials, but did not mention forks.
Thomas Coryate was a traveler and one-time Court Jester in the court of James I. While traveling in Italy, he became convinced of the usefulness of the fork. He wrote home, in 1611:

For while with their knife which they hold in one hand they cut the meat out of the dish, they fasten their fork, which they hold in their other hand upon the same dish, so that whatsoever he be that sitting in the company of any others at meal, should unadvisedly touch the dish of meat with his fingers, from which all at the table do cut, he will give occasion of offense unto the company, as having transgressed the laws of good manners, in so much that for his error he shall be at the least brow-beaten, if not reprehended in words. Hereupon I myself thought good to imitate the Italian fashion not only when I was in Italy but in England since I came home.

Coryate’s English countrymen remained unconvinced and, mocked him with the nickname “Furcifer” -- a newly coined word combining the Latin word for “fork” with a synonym for Satan. Indeed, as late as 1897, sailors in the British Navy were not permitted to use forks as it was considered an effeminate affectation.
During the reign of Queen Anne (1665-1714), napkins and the increased use of forks made it possible to use finer table linens. Table-setting began to be seen as an art in itself. Books on the subject, including the first titles about napkin folding, began to appear.
While La Varenne had made high Gallic culture out of the kinds of cookery practiced in the kitchens of Henri IV, the dining room now began to be a place of pomp and protocol. A military-based brigade system of officers of the household, complete with uniforms (which even included swords for the highest-ranking servants) was created -- not to wait in trenches, but to wait on trenchermen.
A 1662 service manual for these officers of the mouth explained, “Give the best portions to the most esteemed guests, and if they are of great importance, give them an extra portion.” It signaled the beginning of a shift of emphasis from the function of meals for the sake of promoting the status of the host, to one of providing the most pleasurable dining experience possible for the guest – but it was still based on status.
The Revolution
That shift of emphasis, from host to guest, paralleled shifts in society at large. The French Revolution, the rise of democracy, new conceptions of the role of the individual in society, and the ascendancy of capitalism in Europe made possible the restaurant, as we know it. Great chefs, no longer the exclusive privilege of nobility, began to see themselves, not only as artists (in the same larger-than-life sense that painters, poets and composers began to see themselves) but also as entrepreneurs. They were participants in, and chroniclers of, societal changes.
The French Revolution was not, of course, the sole cause of the development of restaurants in France. Rather, both were effects of the same democratizing spirit; the first suggestion of restaurants in France had appeared about twenty years before the Revolution. It could be argued that the rise of popular public eating-places aided and abetted the rise of democratic/revolutionary zeal. Coffeehouses had been around, both in France and in England since the second half of the seventeenth century. The Café Procope was a popular meeting place for intellectuals, like Voltaire. It opened at its current address, in 1686, and is today the oldest surviving coffeehouse in Paris.
In 1782, A. B. Beauvilliers opened what we would recognize as the first true French restaurant, ironically named “The Great Tavern of London.” The term “restaurant” already existed in France, but it previously referred only to small establishments that sold broth or bouillon, that is: “restoratives.” Beauvilliers, and other chefs, notably Carême, had spent time working in England -- especially during the Revolution, when association with French nobility might have endangered their lives. Beauvilliers invented the à la carte menu, offering his guests the opportunity to choose from a number of menu items. This was a marked change from the table d’hôte of the past, signaling a greater interest in the pleasure and convenience of the guests.
French Service found its roots in the court of Louis XIV, grandson of Marie de Medici and Henri IV. The meal was divided into three separate parts, or services. The first and second services consisted of the soups, game, and roasts that were listed on the menu. The third service was dessert. The sequence was much the same as it had been in ancient Greece and Rome – though the opulent style of the dishes served would have astounded even the most jaded Roman epicures. As guests entered the dining room, they found the first course already in place, the entrée. Hot items were kept warm on réchauds or heating units. After each of the courses were finished, the guests left the dining room while the tables were cleaned and reset for the next service.
French Service had some distinct disadvantages. The tables were overloaded, and not merely with food. Elaborate centerpieces, flower baskets and candelabras seemed to fill every available inch. Despite the use of réchauds, the last items served were generally cold or had, at the very least, lost their freshness. With so many dishes served, most guests limited themselves to one or two items and rarely had an opportunity to sample others.
Carême lived on the crest of the social changes characterized by the Revolution. He represents the grandest statement of the old, court-based, cuisine but was inspired by the vigor of a new society creating itself. Carême was one of the last hold-outs in favor of French Service. It was a perfect frame for the exhibition of his grand architectural displays of food.
Carême’s preference for the grandeur of French Service could not slow the shift to a more guest-centered form of service. Early in the nineteenth century, Grimod de la Reynière published his Manual for Amphitryons, a guidebook for table service. The term “amphitryon” is used in place of the old “officer of the mouth,” or carver (the person in charge of the dining room). Reynière’s motto for service staff, “The host whose guest is obliged to ask for anything is a dishonored man’” was a far cry from the kind of status-based service seen in the courts of the past.
This change in focus was echoed, in 1825, with Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste. His aphorism, “To invite a person to your house is to take charge of his happiness as long as he be beneath your roof,” is a logical extension of Reynière’s edict. Thirty-one years later, Félix Urbain Dubois’ La Cuisine Classique codified this sentiment by introducing European diners to Russian Service. Food was served, hot from the kitchen, in individual portions, rather than from an immense display, where all the dishes, prepared well ahead of time, had been sitting for maximum visual effect.
If French service was intended to impress guests with the host’s largesse (even if it was served lukewarm), Russian Service assured that each guest’s meal was served at its best. The burden of assuring the guest’s enjoyment was shifted to the host (or, rather, to the host’s staff), while attracting as little attention as possible. In a sense, Dubois had rediscovered the best aspect of classic Roman table service: piping hot dishes rushed out for the guest’s delectation.
From this point on, the development of European, and especially French, cuisine became a series of small refinements. Chefs, from Escoffier to Bocuse, alternately applied the modern taste for increased simplification (approaching the understanding of food in a systematic way) with a search for new influences. This latter search was made sometimes among old but almost forgotten cookbooks (Tirel, LaVarenne and Carême were -- figuratively -- exhumed and re-examined). Chefs also began exploring exotic cuisines from countries recently made accessible by modern transportation. The evolution of table service slowed to a crawl, as the needs of fine dining were adequately met by fine-tuning of the formats of table d’hôte, á la carte, French and Russian Service. Significant change, for better or worse, would have to come from somewhere else.
A New World
In 1900, the first edition of The Michelin Guide, in France, reflected changes in modern society -- a society characterized by mobility, a desire for freedom of choice, and disposable income – specifically, a society that used automobiles to exercise those freedoms. It also reflected the foodservice industry’s increasing awareness that the guest’s satisfaction is paramount. These modern concepts did not originate in France, the world capital of fine dining. They came from the New World, and they were generated by forces that could never have been imagined by the likes of the great chefs of historic French cuisine.
There were two profound differences between the evolutions of dining habits in the two hemispheres. American culture developed in an environment characterized by the industrial revolution and a work ethic that originated with Europe’s protestant reformation. That combination made efficiency an almost religious virtue. In the nineteenth century, technological changes shaped America’s rise to power more than history or geography. While European cuisines and services developed slowly from ancient historical roots, the evolution of American cuisine was accelerated by the need to feed vast numbers of people, spread out over an entire continent, as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Rapidly changing technologies in the nineteenth century enabled this change. Almost simultaneously, agriculture, transportation and food processing were transformed by new technical ideas. Even taste preferences were forced to yield to scientific analysis. Companies that manufactured millions of units of food items could not afford to make their products according to the refined tastes of one or two people. By the beginning of the twentieth century, marketing science, with tasting panels, focus groups and surveys of public opinion began to be used -- first to read, then to transform, the American taste.
In the Old World, labor was the least expensive component of meal preparation – but, in America, raw materials were cheap. Increased industrial production of American ingredients brought material costs down, causing the cost of labor to rise as a proportion of the total cost. The cost of skilled labor began to be seen as a limiting factor in the pursuit of higher profits. The combination of economies of scale (through increased mechanization) and greater use of unskilled labor provided the profitability the food industry required. Liability due to food-born illness (both literally and in the sense of damaged market perception) has led to a greater interest in sanitation. The needs for good sanitary practices and government regulation are both cause and effect of the mechanization of the food industry.
A rejection of hedonistic pleasure (based upon the religious convictions of many of the early colonists and an idealized image of the rigorous lifestyle of the frontier) combined with Yankee thriftiness and an insatiable appetite for progress -- such as “modern” technologically produced foodstuffs -- to define American eating habits. The elaborate presentation and service that distinguished European-style fine dining were dropped in favor of a simpler style that made a virtue of efficiency inspired by the work-ethic. Americans were “doers,” not dawdlers. People prided themselves on their simple tastes and their willingness “to get on with the work at hand.” Fine dining and elaborate service came to be regarded as almost un-American self-indulgence.
Gail Borden, the inventor of condensed milk, was a prototypical champion of efficiency. He once bragged that there was a:
Time was when people would… spend hours at a meal. Napoleon never took over twenty minutes… I am through in fifteen.

Viewed historically, given Borden-like motivations, the development of fast food franchises seem inevitable -- a kind of culinary manifest destiny. Fast food satisfied almost every one of the conditions I’ve described. Indeed, the mass-market approach to food production -- and minimized service -- worked very well for a few decades, when the baby boomers (the single greatest market niche in history) were relatively young. As the boomers’ tastes matured (and their disposable incomes grew larger), the uniformity of fast food and the absence of table service began to lose some of their attractiveness. Americans began to want more from their dining experiences, and the industry responded.
During the first half of the century, American fine dining restaurants tried to emulate European manners. French service was the most elegant, followed by Russian, and a simpler English style of service. American service evolved from the European models, utilizing aspects of all three styles in varying combinations. Today’s dining is less stratified and formal; it exemplifies the democratic shift that has characterized the history of table service. The manifold changes in American eating habits in the past two decades can be divided into two main categories, grouped according to the direction of cultural shift involved. Some of these changes occurred spontaneously, while some were initiated by the foodservice industry. 
First, there has been a recurrence of the popularity of fine dining. This would seem to contradict the overall trend towards simpler meals, but fine dining is not what it used to be. Chefs are celebrities, and have made themselves accessible to huge numbers of diners through their cookbooks, television shows and public appearances. However, the new high-end dining has become more casual, in order to cater to the youthful self-image maintained by aging baby boomers. The bistro is an obvious attempt to blend fine dining with casual life-style. This reflects a trendy descent from the lofty levels of service that accompany haute cuisine
True haute cuisine still exists, of course, in a few dozen elite restaurants around the world – but, by their very nature and expense, they are distinct from the larger societal picture we’re discussing. However, the new ideas such restaurants utilize (for example, the recently fashionable “molecular gastronomy”) do eventually filter down, in modified form, to the kind of establishments that concern us.
The second change in our eating habits is more in keeping with the economic history of foodservice in America. Rather than abandon the profitability of mass-production, the major foodservice companies have chosen to modify the perception of their products and services. Seeking to capitalize on “niche” markets, these companies have adopted different personalities and different menus to appeal more to individual tastes: there are seafood chains, Italian chains, Mexican chains and eclectic chains (generically chic places that offer a variety of different trendy foods in some sort of neutral environment). 
Several chains adopted the informal atmosphere of the sports bar, sanitizing the image a bit so that it would be suitable for family dining. Typically, they might offer, on one menu, a whole range of seemingly unrelated foods: pastas, steaks, fajitas, soups (Gumbo, French onion soup, New England Clam Chowder), egg rolls and pizza.
Many of these restaurants adopted entertainment themes -- for their decor and service styles -- that reinforced the impressions created by their menus. Restaurant dining became the equivalent of a visit to a theme park, and it was supposed to be, above all else, fun. Such restaurants can be seen as a trendy ascent from the lower levels of service that are typical of fast food establishments.
These two basic approaches to modern food service (adjusting customer expectations down from White Tablecloth dining and up from the grab-and-gulp of fast food) are not antithetical. Both options (the franchised theme restaurant and the bistro) are probably just stopping points along the road from fast food to fine dining. Baby boomers are well-into the most lucrative parts of their careers and their children have “left the nest.” If ever there was a time for better dining and more responsive table service to bloom again, it is now. 
CONCLUSION
To summarize, the history of food service consists of a set of parallel developments:

There has been a general increase in the sophistication of the food served, and a concomitant rise in sophistication of the manner in which it is served and consumed. While there have been occasional detours, the trend has been toward a more subtle understanding and integration of the parts of the meal. There has been a gradual increase in awareness of the inherent qualities of the foods we eat.
The importance of sanitation has received increasing emphasis. The development, and gradual acceptance, of the fork and of table manners were indicators of that change. The modern industrial/mass market approaches to food delivery have made “untouched by human hands” not only a possibility, but in many cases an expectation.
Efficiency, first desired as a route to profitability, is routinely expected by increasingly time-constricted customers, and is therefore is a requirement for success; and finally:
The definition and functions of the host have changed. Originally, the word referred to the “lord of the manor,” the person actually paying for the feast. Gradually, the term “host” and the host’s responsibilities were transferred to the top officer of the household, in effect acting as the lord’s surrogate. Today, hosting duties are spread out over the entire spectrum of the food service industry, from the teenagers manning the registers at fast food joints to the CEOs of their parent multinational corporations. 

All of these reflect a progressive shift of emphasis from the status of the host to the pleasure of the guest. Burger King’s “Have it your way” has become the mantra of this increasingly democratic approach to food service. Immensely successful sandwich franchises, like Subway and Quizno’s, take this literally – with the selection of every ingredient in the meal being left to the diner.


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