Food - Drink
Meal Courses Were Invented To Solve A Distinctly Victorian Issue
By DEBORAH MARTIN
Before the 1850s in England, nobility ate in “service à la française,” or “service in the French style,” which involved multiple courses being brought to the table at once. Etiquette stated that those who dined with Queen Victoria couldn't eat until she had her fill, and there wasn’t always enough food left for everyone once she was done.
According to the European Journal of Food and Drink Society, service à la française fell out of favor following 1850, replaced by “service à la russe” (“service in the Russian style”), which solved many of its predecessor's issues. In this style, sequential courses were brought into the dining room and served to each person by footmen.
When Queen Victoria introduced service à la russe to royal banquets, the rest of the upper class followed; multiple courses were suited to etiquette-focused Victorian society. The new style made sure everyone got their own fill, and that foods were served fresh and hot (or cold) rather than sitting out on the table for the whole meal.
Service à la russe also provided Victorians with a more formal way of socializing. Multiple courses became a status symbol that demonstrated one’s affluence and understanding of increasingly complex etiquette; by the time service à la russe became the norm, it wasn’t unusual for 12 or 13 courses to be served at formal meals.