Dining Etiquette Series – The Complexities of Serving Coffee

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes!
Lovelier than a thousand kisses,
 sweeter far than muscatel wine!
 ~ Lieschen, Coffee Cantata by Johan Sebastian Bach

In the early 18th Century in Leipzig, Germany, coffee was a controversial commodity. Some years later, Bach composed Coffee Cantata about the coffee “brew”- ha-ha, which features the clash of a father and daughter over her love of the seductive beverage. (Here is the English translation.)

Today, we have some controversies of our own about coffee, or at least variations in the way we serve it in formal or semi-formal social and business luncheons and dinners.

Dining Etiquette Series – Dessert, At Last!

Life is uncertain.  Eat dessert first.
Ernestine Ulmer, 1892-1987

No doubt many people will agree with this famous quote. But, in the formal multi-course dinner, dessert is the last course, at least in the U.S. In European, and European-influenced, countries you might find that the dessert course is followed by a fruit course to finish the dinner with a refreshing palate cleanser, and then followed by coffee and a sweet (more about the “coffee course” next week). But, in most cases, dessert will be the sweet finale to a luncheon or dinner. 

Dining Etiquette Series – Fruit & Cheese Course

"Digestive cheese, and fruit there sure will bee...”
Inviting a Friend to Supper
by Ben Jonson

The course that follows the main course, which I talked about in last week’s entry, sometimes consists of fruit and cheese. However, this custom varies among chefs, event planners, hosts, restaurants and countries. In some cases, the cheese might stand alone! For example, as cheese is a digestive, it might follow the main course, followed by the dessert course, which might be followed by a small serving of fresh fruit to end with something refreshing and palate cleansing. This custom, however, is rare in the U.S., where a formal meal is likely to end with dessert. 

Dining Etiquette Series – The Main Course

Go vegetable heavy. Reverse the psychology of your plate by making meat the side dish and vegetables the main course. ~ Bobby Flay

Mr. Flay might have the right idea. Scientists say that by 2050 we'll all be vegetarians due to an additional two billion people crowding the planet. With less land and water to accommodate livestock, we’ll be turning to vegetables instead. And, as this will be a gradual trend toward plant food, we should be thinking now about either practicing zero population growth, a concept that took root in the late 1960s, or coming up with creative and diverse ways to prepare vegetables for both family and formal dining.