The Western table is built upon a multiple course meal, wherein one dish signals the start of the meal, followed by another and so forth until the last course signal the end of the whole meal. The courses, as each phase is called, may be served by intervals or as each dish is consumed. This is especially true in formal sit-down dinners. However, it is also possible to bring out all the dishes at once and serve it family style or buffet style, especially in bigger dining functions or banquets.
A typical full-course meal consists of several courses, at most five, which includes the appetizer, soup, salad, entrée, and dessert. However, it is also considered appropriate to serve only as few as three to two courses, especially if it’s just a few people eating or the meal is informal.
The appetizer is the first course in a meal. The main characteristic of an appetizer is that it should be light, bite size, and not too filling. It should just be enough to whet the appetite and prepare the diners to the succeeding courses to be served. Most often, appetizers include canapés, chips and dips, cheese and bread, and other small plate meals. The dinner host should take into consideration that it should not overshadow the main course, so in the recipe collection here, select the ones that are fun but delicious to eat and easy to prepare.
The soup offers something hot or cold to sip from a bowl. It’s seasoned with the flavors of the main ingredient, such as chicken in chicken soup, pumpkin puree in a pumpkin soup, or mushroom and cream in a cream of mushroom soup. A good accompaniment to a comforting bowl of soup is bread, crusty, warm and slathered with butter.
The salad is another accompaniment for the soup and bread. Light, refreshing and drizzled with a good vinaigrette, the salad provides a break from any residual richness from the appetizer or the main course.
The entrée is the main course, usually consisting of meats, chicken, vegetables, grains, and pasta. A side dish may accompany the entrée, especially in roasts and grilled foods, fried chicken, and steamed fish. Otherwise, a casserole dish or a satisfying meat stew would suffice as a main course.
By the time the dinner guests are ready to end the meal, a dessert or sweet ending is served. Sometimes, it’s accompanied by a cup of coffee or hot tea. A dessert may be anything from a bowl of fresh, seasonal fruits, a slice of cake, a plate of cookies, a bowl of pudding, or even just a dessert wine.
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