For centuries, the wealthy would partake in meals that consisted of several courses of carefully prepared dishes designed to excite the senses. This was achieved through the use of colour, spices that were as valuable as gold and presentation that offered visual entertainment.
In today's restaurant scene, tradition is still present on most menus (regardless of the cuisine) through the use of old French words such as "entree" while some terms are rarely used outside of fine dining establishments.
Appetizer is a small portion of savoury food that is intended to "open the appetite" and stimulate your desire for more. An appetizer is often served at our special event dinners with a glass of sparkling on arrival.
Amuse Bouche also known as "palate pleaser" or "mouth amuser" is a small portion of food which is not offered on the menu but sent out complimentary to all guests at the table as a preview to the chef's style and creativity on a bite sized scale.
Entree is French for "entrance" and formerly signified the entry of dishes into the dining hall. This dish is typically half the size of a main course serving.
Entrement translates to "between servings" and marked the end of a course. It was quite a spectacle in medieval times and often included music, acting and animals that were cooked and reconstructed to resemble their original form.
Dessert wasn't always available in the abundance of choice we have today. Sugar used to be extremely expensive and was saved for the wealthy on special occasions. Dried fruits were often served to finish a meal and are still a popular accompaniment to cheese platters which some prefer to a sweet dessert.
Petit Four which means "small oven" is a tiny sweet served at the end of a meal with tea or coffee and sometimes with dessert. A typical petit four served at Bitton is Creme Brulee but could also be anything from a hand made biscuit or macaron to a chocolate truffle.
It's not just the courses that have been modified - meal times have changed from set hours to all day breakfasts, lunch on the run and the main meal of the day being dinner.
The main meal of the day is still lunch in many areas of France and most of Europe and can be as substantial as our dinner including soup, meat, vegetables, salad and cheese. Dinner is often replaced by a light supper and this is how it was for centuries before electricity was commonplace in the average home.
It was expensive to burn candles and lamps to see in the dark so daily routines revolved around the hours of natural sunlight. Some of the powerful and well-to-do in France would occasionally stay up after sun down and their halls would be lit with hundreds of burning torches and candles.
Do you have a flame flickering at the dinner table? How much tradition is present in your dining habits? We'd love to hear your stories.
Posted on 23rd February 2012