While the concept of buffets is originally Swedish, that began in the 20th century, the idea of a flying buffet is a fairly Western notion that is gaining momentum in the recent times.
The so-called Big Fat Indian weddings which comprise of a host of functions and lavish setups are the most common sight for grand feasts in the buffet style and honestly speaking, we are not complaining. When the Swedish began with the concept of buffet, the idea was to feed the hungry guests who had travelled from far and wide to attend a certain function or event. It usually comprised of dry nibbles and tit-bits which were bite-sized and easy to eat on what was called a smogarsbord.
The present-day understanding of buffets evolved when the Americans were treated to this style of meal at the World Fair in New York in 1939. That’s when the practice of loading up one’s plate with all-you-can-eat was introduced to the world. You know what’s interesting? Indians had been practicing this style of eating way before the Westerns, in the form of a 500 year-old tradition of langar. The Sikhs have been serving this communal meal to those who visit their gurudwaras since ages. While the meal-serving system might have become modernized today yet the core of the practice remains the same.
Today, we’ve got plenty of buffet restaurants across Indian cities, serving not just Indian food but a mix of Continental and European varieties too. While the idea was functioning well for the longest time and had gained widespread popularity because one could enjoy a plethora of dishes in one meal, however, the pandemic raised several apprehensions around dining-in and social distancing measures. In the wake of such concerns, a modified version of buffets called flying buffets started gaining shape. While there is not much clarity on the origins of the concept, it is said to have come from the West.
What Is A Flying Buffet?
In a flying buffet, the food flies to you, quite literally. This means that you no longer have to stand in long queues, waiting to load up your plate with the delicacies on offer. Instead, the food will come to you and be served to you at your table. Now, you might ask how is it different from a la carte then? Well, that’s a valid question but here’s what the flying buffet has to offer.
Imagine this. You have options galore, just like a regular buffet, at your disposal and you can relish each one of them while they are served to each individual in small portions. Yes, you read that right. From miniatures glasses to plates, small servings are used to place each of the dishes in smaller quantities or bite-sized pieces so that you can taste everything without wasting anything.
This concept diverges from the gluttony that we might engage in at lavish buffet setups, providing you with controlled portions that are enough to satiate your cravings and appetite. Small canapés, mini tarts and quiches are some of the nibbles that might be on offer at a flying buffet. However, it is not limited to just appetizers, even the main course and desserts can be served in this complacent manner.
This reminds me of cocktail samosas I have gorged on at Indian weddings. These bite-sized flaky puffs are stuffed with the same potato filling as a regular samosa but can fit in your mouth at once. While finger food seems the most suitable to include at these flying buffets, you can always include your desi favourites like dal makhni, butter chicken etc. in a unique way. Dal makhni could be served as a fondue, making it easier to eat the creamy dish without having to dirty your hands. Butter chicken could be layered in mini naans shaped like tacos that can be gulped down in one bite.
The Ideal Flying Buffet Situation
These kind of buffets work well for small, intimate gatherings, like house parties, kitty parties, birthday and anniversary celebrations at home etc. You don’t require a large space to setup the food and the guests have more freedom to move around or sit and converse with one another while the food arrives at their table.
Another great advantage of flying buffets is the fact that you are served hot, to the minute food that is directly placed from the kitchen to your table. So say, a chicken in black bean sauce or lasagna might grow dry and unappetizing after the first few helpings at a buffet. The idea of serving smaller, tapas like portions, allows enjoying fresh and hot food immediately.
Any close-knit affairs or corporate meetings become smoother and more fruitful with such flying buffets because you don’t have to worry about getting a refill or stuffing your plate at once. This ensures you have a hearty meal and conversation at the same time, hassle-free.
While it is still an emerging concept in India, a few catering services like Mix Studio and Delhi Royale have taken the plunge to enter this sector with their flying buffet options.