The literature suggests that food service largely has become identified as a non-nursing duty and as a task that should be completed as quickly as possible. This conflicts with the evidence that social interaction at mealtimes has the potential to promote well being. Using observational and interview techniques, the social and functional context of meal service in 10 nursing homes was examined in this study. The findings from the observation of and interviews with staff are reported in this article. Three broad themes describing the cultural practices of nursing home staff during mealtimes are identified as follows: maintaining personal identity, assisting individuals to eat, and maintaining interaction. Alongside residents' general outward acquiescence to the service, nurses did not see problems and deficiencies with the service observed by the researchers or reported by the residents. Recommendations to improve mealtime service in nursing homes have been put forward in an effort to enlighten staff.