Á la Française dining is my kind of dining. Plates and bowles of dishes are placed on the table and everyone is allowed to help himself to the food he wants. Admittedly, nowadays the placement of these dishes isn´t meticulously planned and there isn´t a logic behind it like it had back then. Á la Française dining reminds me of the creation of a painting, but instead of paint the table-deckers use food (there is one picture of such a dining table in the book and it looks insane).
But there are some pitfalls to this kind of dining:
Participants had to be aware of each other, and be able to share and not look greedy. Tales abound of unfortunates, not brought up to its intricacies, who failed at the dinner table. In one example from York, a young clergyman ate all of the dish placed in front of him, not realising that it was for all to share. He was the guest of honour, and "his" dish, of ruffs and reeves, was a great delicacy. It had been carefully placed in front of him to indicate status, not that he could eat it all. Uproar apparently ensued when his mistake was realised.