The First Catered Meals

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If you've ever been to a major event, chances are that you've experienced a catered meal at some point. The idea of providing food to guests to celebrate in good times has been a tradition that goes back centuries, even as far back as the ancient Greeks. Back then, banquets were a celebration of culture and poetry, with wine being a major part of the event and food being a secondary portion of the festivities. On the rare occasions when catering was important, it was done to provide food to soldiers who were responsible for defending the city from attackers.

However, as time went on, great food became a more anticipated part of the event, and as the upper classes moved away from farming and having abundant livestock and into more industrial positions, meal preparation began to be shifted to outside help, making catering a thriving industry. By the Middle Ages, a well-catered meal became normal for upper-class parties, including weddings and other celebrations of life's successes.

In the United States, catering again took hold as a way to celebrate successes. During the American Revolution, British general William Howe had taken control of the cities of both New York and Philadelphia, with the American forces facing a likely defeat without a major change in their fortune. However, George Washington's troops were able to attack Philadelphia with enough force to drive Howe into a small retreat, and the British government pulled Howe and his men away from Philadelphia to attempt to hold other colonial territories. With Howe expelled from the city, Philadelphia's leaders held a ball to celebrate the victory, with many chefs in the city catering the meal. Almost 50 years later, the next generation of Philadelphians remembered that event, and the city became the birthplace of catering in the United States, starting a trend that spread across the nation.

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