Country Kitchen: The Lure of Buffet Dining

Country Kitchen: The Lure of Buffet Dining
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Buffet dining has long appealed to me since the days of childhood when our family attended potluck meals at church gatherings or at family festivities. In those days we very rarely dined in restaurants, so our dining experiences were at the homes of friends or at church and community socials. However, an array of foods arranged along a table achieved a certain fascination.
I always enjoyed the specialties of different cooks whether family or ladies in our community. Aunt Nellie had her delicious Poppy Seed Cake; Auntie contributed homemade bread and apple pie; Aunt Pat (originally from Virginia) made Southern fried chicken and corn bread; my mom her Corn Flake Macaroons.

Buffets, a Simple Meal

According to The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, a buffet dinner is "the simplest way to entertain a large group of people." The foods generally are made ahead so there's less scurrying around at the last moment or during the meal for the hostess or group coordinating the meal. This also is a way to serve a variety of foods that appeal to various appetites

You can have a theme for the buffet, perhaps seasonal, regional or cultural. Or simply let each person bring what they'd like. Generally, when this happens, as with the potluck fellowship dinners at our church once a month, there simply seems to be enough of everything...main dishes and desserts.

Various Names

Buffet is the name this type of meal's more often known by...the art of serving a variety of hot and cold dishes to make a pleasing array. These meals can be breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.

However, they sometimes are known as potluck or covered dish meals. Potluck, meaning a meal that is basically unplanned with each person bringing whatever they'd like or is their specialty.

Covered dish means just what it implies...foods that are carried in covered serving dishes or containers.

Hot and Cold Dishes

Much depends on the season whether hot or cold dishes are served and whether the meal is in or out-of-doors. You also need to consider whether foods must refrigerated or can be on the table for awhile.

Some buffet specialists maintain that you should plan to serve at least one hot dish for those who don't want to eat solely cold items and consider that a meal. With a sandwich and salad buffet, the hot item might be soup.

Easy to Eat Dishes

Consider offering dishes that are easy to serve and eat and are ones for which you don't need too many plates or bowls. Often, too, buffets are planned when you don't have enough space for everyone to sit at a table. So make sure your foods are those which can be eaten easily from a plate on one's lap.

Finger foods also are handy to serve at buffets, as appetizers and for the main course and dessert

COUSIN POLLY'S WALNUT CAKE is a nice dessert for family reunions.

Cream 1/2 cup shortening with 1 1/2 cups sugar. Mix together until light and foamy. Add sifted dry ingredients (2 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder) and 3/4 cup milk alternately. Add 1 cup chopped nuts. Fold in 4 stiffly beaten egg whites last.

Bake in well greased 9 x 13-inch pan for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees F. for or until tests done. You can serve it plain, with whipped topping or an icing. This cake also can be baked in layer pans and put together with icing.

Article (C) 2004 Mary Emma Allen

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About The Author

Mary Emma Allen researches and writes from her multi-generational NH home. Check out her new site, Tea Time Notes

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