What is a Buffet you ask?
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Article: "What is a Buffet"
resources: wikipedia - thefreedictionary - gutenberg.org/prepare&serve

A buffet (IPA: [ˈbʊfeɪ] in UK, IPA: [bʉˈfeɪ] in US, from French: sideboard) is a system of serving meals in which food is placed in a public area where the diners generally serve themselves. Buffets are offered at various places including hotels and many social events. Buffets usually have some hot dishes, so the term cold buffet (see Smörgåsbord) has been developed to describe formats lacking hot food. Hot or cold buffets usually involve dishware and utensils, but a finger buffet is an array of foods that are designed to be small and easily consumed by hand alone, such as cupcakes, slices of pizza, foods on cocktail sticks, etc.

The essential feature of the various buffet formats is that the diners can directly view the food and immediately select which dishes they wish to consume, and usually also can decide how much food they take. Buffets are effective for serving large numbers of people at once, and are often seen in institutional settings, such as business conventions or large parties.
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Home entertaining

Since a buffet involves diners serving themselves, it has in the past been considered an informal form of dining, less formal than table service. In recent years, however, buffet meals are increasingly popular among hosts of home dinner parties, especially in homes where limited space complicates the serving of individual table places.

Origins

The buffet table originates from the Brännvinsbord—Swedish schnapps (shot of alcoholic beverage) table from the middle of 16th century. This custom had its prime during the early 18th century, and was developed into the more modern buffet around the beginning of 19th century. The smörgåsbord buffet did not increase in popularity until the expansion of the railroads throughout Europe.

The smörgåsbord table originally was a meal where guests gathered before dinner for a pre-dinner drink, and was not part of the formal dinner to be followed. The smörgåsbord buffet was often held in separate rooms for men and women before the dinner was served.

Smörgåsbord became internationally known as "smorgasbord" at the 1939 New York World's Fair exhibition, as the Swedes had to invent a new way of showcasing the best of Swedish food to large numbers of visitors.

The term buffet originally referred to the French sideboard furniture where the food was served, but eventually became applied to the serving format. The word buffet became popular in the English-speaking world in the second half of the 20th century after the Swedes had popularized the smorgasbord in New York. The word is now fully accepted into the English language.

As displays of wealth

When the possession of gold and silver has been a measure of solvency of a regime, the display of it, in the form of plates and vessels, is more a political act and a gesture of conspicuous consumption. The 16th-century French term buffet applied both to the display itself and to the furniture on which it was mounted, often draped with rich textiles, but more often as the century advanced the word described an elaborately carved cupboard surmounted by tiers of shelves. In England such a buffet was called a court cupboard. Prodigal displays of plate were probably first revived at the fashionable court of Burgundy and adopted in France. The Baroque displays of silver and gold that were affected by Louis XIV of France were immortalized in paintings by Alexandre-François Desportes and others, before Louis' plate and his silver furniture had to be sent to the mint to pay for the wars at the end of his reign.

During the 18th century more subtle demonstrations of wealth were preferred. The buffet was revived in England and France at the end of the century, when new ideals of privacy made a modicum of self-service at breakfast-time appealing, even among those who could have had a footman servant behind each chair. In The Cabinet Dictionary of 1803, Thomas Sheraton presented a neoclassical design and observed that "a buffet may, with some propriety, be restored to modern use, and prove ornamental to a modern breakfast-room, answering as the china cabinet/repository of a tea equipage".

20th century

In a 1922 housekeeping book entitled How to Prepare and Serve a Meal, Lillian B. Lansdown wrote:
















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The concept of eating a buffet arose in mid 17th century France, when gentleman callers would arrive at the homes of ladies they wanted to woo unexpectedly. Their surprise arrival would throw the kitchen staff in to a panic and the only food that could be served was a selection of what was found in the cold room.

The informal luncheon or lunch — originally the light meal eaten between breakfast and dinner, but now often taking the place of dinner, the fashionable hour being one (or half after if cards are to follow) — is of two kinds. The "buffet" luncheon, at which the guests eat standing; and the luncheon served at small tables, at which the guests are seated....

The knife is tabooed at the “buffet” lunch, hence all the food must be such as can be eaten with fork or spoon. As a rule, friends of the hostess serve... The following dishes cover the essentials of a “buffet” luncheon. Beverages: punch, coffee, chocolate (poured from urn, or filled cups brought from pantry on tray); hot entrées of various sorts (served from chafing dish or platter) preceded by hot bouillon; cold entrées, salads, lobster, potatoes, chicken, shrimp, with heavy dressings; hot rolls, wafer-cut sandwiches (lettuce, tomato, deviled ham, etc.); small cakes, frozen creams and ices.
A buffet (IPA: [ˈbʊfeɪ] in UK, IPA: [bʉˈfeɪ] in US, from French: sideboard) is a system of serving meals in which food is placed in a public area where the diners generally serve themselves. Buffets are offered at various places including hotels and many social events. 
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