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English Service

English Table Service is taken to mean the old-fashiond practice of giving each diner an empty plate, and placing every dish on the table, sweet and savoury at the same time, for the diners to help themselves. Where the service is so large that the table simply can't accommodate it, there would be 'removes' where some of the dishes were replaced, so that a grand banquet might be described as having so-many 'removes'.

This old method is described in cookery books from around 1650, and given with a great deal of detail at the end of Moxon 1764. As late as 1844 'Punch' could joke that "Three removes are better than a dessert". It is only rarely used now, but partly survives in the English practice of delivering vegetables in a separate dish from meats, for the diners to help themselves and is still customarily followed to some extent at the Christmas Feast. How table service was conducted in England before the 17th Century, or in modest households, has to be mere conjecture.

Table layout for a service with one remove
From: Moxon 1764

Traditional French Service has each course brought from the kitchen one at a time, and placed in platters on the table for the diners to help themselves, or be served by the waiter.

Both these have now been largely replaced by Russian Service, where the food - famously 'meat-and-two-veg' - is portioned and carved either in the kitchen or in the restaurant, and then delivered, one ready-made course at a time, to the diner.

Table layout illustration from p127 of England's newest way in all sorts of cookery, 1708

And for how to behave at table, here's a wonderful little book from the 1700s - 'The honours of the table, or, Rules for behaviour during meals',

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