Jean-Louis Flandrin

The Order of Serving Food Publication date : January 1, 2002

The order in which food is served at mealtimes has changed considerably over the centuries, and has always varied from one country to another 'even among nations that are geographically and culturally close. In the sixteenth-century Spanish Court, for example, food was not served in the same order to everyone, and this discrepancy served to signify differences in social hierarchy.

L'Ordre de Mets is a chronological study covering several centuries, as well as a comparative history of food-order etiquette. Jean-Louis Flandrin begins by describing the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the order in which food was served was both strict and complex in France. He then goes on to study food order before and after this period, from the last two centuries of the Middle Ages, up to the present day. Finally, he seeks to find the reasons governing food order in France during different eras by comparing it with that of other European countries.

Jean-Louis Flandrin concludes by examining the backdrop that is common to each one of the countries studied: although nutrition, which is natural, has remained unchanged over the years, gastronomy, which is cultural, has undergone profound changes as our social mores have altered and our knowledge ' particularly medical knowledge ' has grown.

Jean-Louis Flandrin is a historian and former head of research at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.