In almost any restaurant complaints regarding slow service are often heard. Some of these complaints are undoubtedly unjust, as there are certain dishes which cannot possibly be as hastily prepared as the guests sometimes wish; but there are many cases where delays occur which could be easily avoided. Some of the reasons may be due to the delay in forwarding the orders in the pantry or kitchen, incompetence of a waiter, etc., but in most cases it is caused by the unsatisfactory naming of dishes. Much time is wasted when the waiters are questioned by guests as to what this or that is, and what a certain name of dish means. And we often find that waiters cannot give satisfactory answers or that they have to inquire in the kitchen or of the headwaiter, captain, etc. Explaining the names of dishes to the guests naturally takes up much time. The time lost is not of so much consideration when there are only a few guests in the dining room and the guests as well as the waiters have time to spare, but during certain hours of the day when the dining rooms are filled with guests, every minute is valuable and has to be used to the best advantage. Quick service is one of the main factors in the proper conducting of restaurants and hotels, and can be much improved if the names of dishes on bills of fare are given in clear concise words so that a guest does not need to ask their meaning. Easily understood bills of fare have this advantage: that a guest can give an immediate order, and the waiter can forward dishes more quickly and thereby be at liberty to attend to other guests that are waiting. This will make it possible for the employees to take care of more customers at the same time, the guests will be better pleased, and the place will be recommended more because good and quick service are to a large extent the basis of a good reputation — a feature always sought by the progressive hotel and restaurant manager.
In serving table d'hote the mistake of offering menus which are not easily understood, is just as great as when serving a la carte. A party of guests taking their places at a table will first reach for the menu and it is a fact that most guests are disappointed and make unfavorable remarks when they see dishes with foreign names on the card. A member of the party may ask his neighbor the meaning of strange names, and the neighbor seldom knows, while others, after a short study of the menu, put back the card because it means very little or nothing to them. A few may take menus in a foreign language as self-evident because in their estimation it shows a high class of establishment, and is fashionable, bon ton, though they may not know the meaning. In fact the majority of guests do not know what kind of dishes are going to be served, but have to wait until it is handed to them, and it oftea happens that they do not even know what they are eating. And when their favorite dish is served which they did not recognize on the menu, they may already have partaken so freely of other dishes that they cannot enjoy it any more. There are dishes, however, which cannot be named satisfactorily for all guests but these are few and we will give more attention to them later on. We must also consider that there are guests who only eat very digestible food and who dare not eat certain dishes at all. By not knowing what will be served the guests cannot select dishes to their taste, but have to take what is offered by the waiter. Therefore a clear menu is absolutely necessary, as there are certain garnished dishes in which it is hard to specify the ingredients. Where the portions are served individually one may often notice that many dishes are taken from the table untouched, or perhaps have been merely tasted. As with a la carte orders the waiter is told to exchange them for other dishes. Not only is time lost in this way but much food is also wasted. This would rarely happen if the menus and bills of fare were couched in a language which could be easily understood by the guests. Fortified with the knowledge of what the bills of fare consisted, the guests would be more anxious to obtain the delicacies suitable to their palate, and take their meals with greater satisfaction. A clear menu is like a good soup before a good meal; a fine indicator of what is to follow. The giver of an entertainment who will lay stress upon serving his guests with an elegant, tasty meal, will also take pains to render the different dishes in words which are intelligible to everybody. If this is not the purpose of table-cards then why have them? Are they only to be treated like Chinese newspapers?
To particularize and to show what is understood by intelligible and uninintelligible names of dishes, we quote a few instances. Let us consider the soups.
Bouillon soups; Bouillon; Meat soups.
Potages de bouillons; Bouillons.
Consomme soups; Consommes.
Potages de consommes: Consommes.
Puree soups; Strained soups.
Potages passes; Potages tamis; Potages a la puree.
Potages a la crenve.
Potages de legumes.
Potages de poissons.
Soupes au vin.
Soupes de fruits.
Soupes a l'eau.
Soupes de (au) lait.
Soupes a la biere.
The foregoing names of the various classes of soups show that each one is entirely different in form and contents. But the forms and contents of the soups are not sufficient to indicate their make up. In most cases the names of-the principle ingredients (elements) which are used must be mentioned to mark the different tastes. A beef consomme with meat balls, is different in taste from a chicken consomme with vegetables, and so is a puree soup of peas different from a puree soup of beans.
Now, on many bills of fare one will often meet with names which cannot claim distinctness. For instance: Soup in Italian style or Italian soup. Most guests will ask what kind of soup it is. Italian or in Italian style does not give any explanation at all. There are meat soups, fish soups, thickened soups, rice soups, etc., and each one can be prepared in Italian style. Accordingly the soup must be named more distinctly, as, for instance, Chicken soup in Italian style, Eice soup in Italian style, etc. If abbreviated names are used then the abbreviation must not be done at the expense of distinctness. It would be better to abbreviate in Italian style to Italian style or simply Italian. In this case a comma must take the place of the omitted i n and the names of the different soups would read as follows: Consomme, Italian; Fish soup, Italian; Eice soup, Italian; Tomato cream soup, Italian; etc.
The same holds good with Danish soup and hundreds of others. There are several soups in Danish style and the best known one is a chicken cream soup. Therefore, Chicken cream soup, Danish.
The soup is named after a person by name of Chevreuse. As this name is written it leads to the belief that the soup is composed of a foreign ingredient which is called "chevreuse", and it is sometimes accepted as such. The name cannot be found in a small dictionary or cyclopeadia, but there is a similar word given namely cheo-rcu'th meaning roe. Some people may think the personal name is a mistake in spelling, because we sometimes see Chevreuil soup given for Chevreuse soup, although this has nothing to do with r|oe-venison soup. The correct way of writing would be: Soup in Chevreuse style or Soup, Chevreuse. But this name is not sufficiently clear for bills of fare, as it does not say what kind of a soup it is. There are several soups named after Chevreuse. One of them consists of fish-broth, sometimes combined with a little meat broth, cream, slices of cucumber, cheese and fish-balls. The fish-broth is the principal element of the soup, and therefore it can be called fish soup. That it contains a little meat broth, a little cream and a few slices of cucumber, matters but very little; just as well as a little milk and a few roasted bread cubes may be in pea soup. The former will always remain a fish soup as the latter will remain pea soup. The main contents of the fish soup are the fish-balls. This can be mentioned (although it is not absolutely necessary) as the name fish soup gives sufficient explanation as far as the character is concerned, and the name Chevreuse indicates the ingredients of the soup. Therefore: F i s h soup, C h e v-r e u s e.
As with soups so it is with all other dishes.
A dish consisting of boiled chicken with curry sauce and rice is often so called. That the curry is a compound spice, which comes from India, does not give us the right to call the whole meal after the home of the curry, unless it is named first with the principal ingredients and make ups. All dishes which contain curry are just as much liked as disliked, and therefore the spice must be mentioned. A guest might send back the dish not knowing that it contained curry. The proper name for the dish would be Chicken in curry with rice; Curried chicken with rice; Chicken in curry sauce with r^ice, or Chicken with curry sauce and rice. Also Curry of chicken with rice and Chicken curry with * i c e is right because in the culinary language the name does not mean the spice alone but could be given to any dish cooked in curry or served with curry sauce. So named, the various styles can be indicated with style designations.
Veal, Marengo is another one of the thousands of difficult names which appear on bills of fare. Some guests who have eaten the dish and who know what this name means will be satisfied with it, but others will undoubtedly ask what kind of a dish it is and what it is like. They want to have an explanation as to how the veal is prepared. The veal may be fried, boiled, or stewed, etc., but to the guest it is a riddle. Veal, larengo is made of cubed veal, chopped onions, charlottes, herbs, etc., and the whole is stewed over a fire. This means that it is a kind of a stew, or better perhaps, a ragout. Therefore, Veal ragout, Marengo Is the proper name. The simple wor<d ragout clears up the whole mystery surrounding the name Veal, Marengo, and every guest would be satisfied when reading it, as everybody understands the word ragout.