History of Catering

Catherine G. Hoover

How Catering Began

The history of catering and fine cooking trades dates back in the 4th millennium BC. It all started in China but the culture of grand eating and drinking was already important during the prosperous years in old Egypt. However, the catering trade only emerged from the commonly practiced hospitality, which was always free, when the first real hostels and inns were built in ancient Greece.

The development in ancient Greece continued in the Roman Empire. At first, the accommodations for Roman soldiers were found along the military roads and trading routes, which were eventually opened to all travelers. During the Middle Ages in Europe, the first signs of the rebirth of the catering trade were seen in monasteries which covered mainly the needs of the many Christian pilgrims going to Rome. Caravan series served the same purpose in the Orient and started there around 600 AD. During Charlemagne’s time, the catering trade developed and spread throughout the entire Europe because transport and trade required secure accommodation.

The catering trade had been greatly influenced by the church in the later part of the Middle Ages. Additionally, the newly established bourgeoisies, the flourishing trade, the natural economy being replaced with money, and the intensification of transport all contributed to the popularity of catering industry.

The catering industry was widely spread in Germany from 14th to 15th century and this had drawn the attention of legislators. The first “beer inspection” licenses were paid by the Augsburg Elector in 1530. It was also in the same year that the “Reformation gutter Polizey” law was enacted and this replaced many regional regulations. After the law was enacted, different rules for hostels and inns were issued and this led to the regulation of the serving of drinks, beer mugs sizes, and the quality and purity of beer, even the quantity and kind of dishes were brought up in the “Zehrordnung” regulation. As time passed by, guild hostels and houses developed. The term “Seefahrts- und Schifferhäuser” was first heard in the seaside towns during the Hanse era. As another area of expertise, post guesthouses and rathskeller restaurants emerged, and until now, they can still be found as establishments termed as “Gasthof zur Post” or “Ratskeller”. The improvement of transport, technical innovations, population increase, and sudden rise in the trade of travel and tourism gave gastronomy a quick shift which made it a very important factor for national economy.

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