Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the society.

Photo

Define Gourmet


  • This topic is locked This topic is locked
17 replies to this topic

#1 M.X.Hassett

M.X.Hassett
  • legacy participant
  • 1,074 posts
  • Location:Bergen County NJ

Posted 28 September 2005 - 12:09 AM

"These were not 'gourmets" but rather people who had a great appreciation for good food and the benefits of dining together." JohnL in the Dumbing Down thread.

This quote made me think. The term gourmet has evolved from meaning someone who enjoys good food and has a good palate to people who eat at high end rest' and look down upon those who are not versed in the language of Adria, Keller, etc... My own grandmother cooked some ecxellent food some of which could be considered gourmet meals, but was always put off by some rest' because of the "gourmet"(modern def.) attitude of some of them. Do you think the average customer is put off by some of the pretentiousness of some of the good rest'(I.E. the bar at The Modern at MoMa NYC) where they could have a good meal for a reasonable price? How could rest' address this problem? I have had some of the best meals at non-"gourmet" venues and some of the worst at "gourmet"-venues.

So how would you define gourmet and how do think it effects the future of dining?
All statement made in my humble opinion
Matthew Xavier Hassett aka "M.X.Hassett"

"Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters-it is vulgarly called bittered sling and is supposed to be an exellent electioneering potion..."
- Balance and Columbian Repository. May 13, 1806

#2 JohnL

JohnL
  • participating member
  • 1,744 posts

Posted 28 September 2005 - 07:42 AM

Good points Matt!
Webster defines Gourmet as: " a connoisseur in eating and drinking."
They define connoisseur as: "a critical judge in matters of art or taste."

To me --being a "critical judge" involves not just appreciation or passion but rather education/knowledge and experience.
That is the ability to provide context for the subject at hand.

Many have a passion and appreciation for fine food, dining, etc. and these people can certainly provide some context based upon their personal experiences which may be considerable, however, having a deeper knowledge of the subject of food involves much more.

Just eating at fine restaurants does not mean one is a gourmet or connoisseur. Having an appreciation for what fine restaurants and fine food are is a welcome next step, but again, connoisseurship involves much more.

I believe we all have a tendency, to feel we are "a cut above" the average person, that we are more "discerning" and have "taste" --at least we want to see ourselves that way.

I refer to the quote below your "signature" by Steven shaw-- perhaps in that quote one can find the basis of what connoisseurship is about.

#3 M.X.Hassett

M.X.Hassett
  • legacy participant
  • 1,074 posts
  • Location:Bergen County NJ

Posted 28 September 2005 - 08:43 AM

The "Oxford American Dictionary" is the definition I was working with "a conoisseur of good food; a person witha discerning palate" it is interesting the variation of defs. for this word. Time to dig out the "Oxford English Dic."
Matthew Xavier Hassett aka "M.X.Hassett"

"Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters-it is vulgarly called bittered sling and is supposed to be an exellent electioneering potion..."
- Balance and Columbian Repository. May 13, 1806

#4 Michael Ruhlman

Michael Ruhlman
  • participating member
  • 466 posts

Posted 28 September 2005 - 02:32 PM

Gourmet as an adjective (or as a magazine) is useful, as in a gourmet food shop.

Gourmet, the noun, I think of as someone who eats with their pinky aloft and only uses fleur de sel to season food.

though i haven't looked any of these words up, I prefer gourmand when referring to some who always orders the liver or the brains or the tripe soup, or, simply out of respect and avocational obligation, the veal orloff. someone who will go anywhere try anything simply out of their love of the craft and pleasure of eating.

#5 Fat Guy

Fat Guy
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 29,303 posts
  • Location:New York, NY

Posted 28 September 2005 - 05:47 PM

I think the word is up for grabs. One of the two companion volumes to Turning the Tables is supposed to be called On the Table, and it's in part about rescuing the gourmet culture from the snobs and elitists. Of course I have to find a publisher for it first . . .

In any event, I think the meaning we should be trying to give to the word gourmet is similar to Ruhlman's definition of gourmand. It often involves a spirit of adventure, though it doesn't have to mean trying new things or traveling far -- there are some gourmets who focus only on hot dogs in New Jersey (like our member John "the hot dog guy"; if I sell the book he's going to be profiled in it). It's a spark of enthusiasm and dedication to excellence that transcends economics and cultures -- you can find it in a four-star restaurant, and you can find it at a barbecue competition; and you can find it absent in those venues as well.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#6 JayBassin

JayBassin
  • participating member
  • 318 posts
  • Location:Silver Spring, Maryland

Posted 28 September 2005 - 06:26 PM

Regardless of the dictionary definition, I think a "gourmet" is someone who combines requisite knowledge of the presented food (i.e., ingredients, cooking style, presentation) with an appreciation of it. It's possible (as Fat Guy says) to be a "hot dog gourmet" but presumably this means that the person knows enough about hot dogs to be able to tell one from another and ---most importantly---be able to discern the difference. I for one would not be able to discern all-beef franks from chicken dogs, but I admire someone who can and understands the nuances. I also think that "gourmet" should not be synonomous with "food snob," although I know quite a few who are. As with any art, it's possible to be able to appreciate fine food (and by "fine" I mean properly or innovatively prepared with appropriate consideration to the ingredients) without being able to reproduce it.

Edited to add:
I think what it comes to is a gourmet has certain culinary standards based on experience or training regarding how certain foods or beverages ought to taste; how certain foods or ingredients go together to bring out a particular flavor, sensation, or texture---and can discern when his/her standard is met.

Edited by JayBassin, 28 September 2005 - 06:45 PM.

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise. --- Henry David Thoreau

#7 Michael Ruhlman

Michael Ruhlman
  • participating member
  • 466 posts

Posted 28 September 2005 - 06:51 PM

i think we should all start calling tony a gourmet.

#8 Fat Guy

Fat Guy
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 29,303 posts
  • Location:New York, NY

Posted 28 September 2005 - 07:16 PM

He definitely does that thing with his pinky.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#9 akwa

akwa
  • participating member
  • 430 posts

Posted 28 September 2005 - 09:35 PM

gourmets by definition cannot be snobs
only misguided souls find salvation in only the "highest" of places

#10 Fat Guy

Fat Guy
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 29,303 posts
  • Location:New York, NY

Posted 29 September 2005 - 05:18 AM

The person of limited means who has no knowledge of haute cuisine but truly appreciates a great hamburger should be said to have a gourmet attitude. The person with every advantage, who has dined in Michelin three-star restaurants and been exposed to the finest wines yet cannot appreciate a great hamburger, has no excuse.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#11 akwa

akwa
  • participating member
  • 430 posts

Posted 29 September 2005 - 06:51 AM

The person of limited means who has no knowledge of haute cuisine but truly appreciates a great hamburger should be said to have a gourmet attitude. The person with every advantage, who has dined in Michelin three-star restaurants and been exposed to the finest wines yet cannot appreciate a great hamburger, has no excuse.

View Post


bravo

#12 Pan

Pan
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 15,544 posts
  • Location:East Village, Manhattan

Posted 29 September 2005 - 02:02 PM

Hmmm...I don't love hamburgers... :raz: :wink:

#13 clark wolf

clark wolf
  • participating member
  • 11 posts
  • Location:New York, Las Vegas & Sonoma (Russian River)

Posted 29 September 2005 - 02:05 PM

Gourmet, as James Beard used to say, is a magazine. He was poking fun but he had a point. Being a gourmet has long been seen as a leisure class pass time sometimes best enjoyed as a bedtime read of exotic far away gastronomic adventures. For some it's more the idea, the image than the food itself.

Really knowing and enjoying good food seems, happily, to have more depth and more solid value these day, one of those trends that I hope will hold steady. The showoff connoisseur is really rather passé'. We regard them fondly, pat them on the head and wish them well. Then we open a bottle of something really good from someone we know and like that goes for about 12 bucks.

#14 Bux

Bux
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 12,211 posts
  • Location:New York City

Posted 29 September 2005 - 09:10 PM

I think the connotation of "gourmet" to some, maybe to most, is "snob." I think the image of a gourmet to many is the guy who eats precious or pretentious food. The word has developed an almost perjorative meaning and if you don't know why, you might check the gouemt food aisles in your local supermarket.

Still I'm not sure having a certain attitude is enough to make one a gourmet (in the good sense of the word). It should take a little knowledge and education in the field of gastronomy. Knowing what you like like doesn't seem enough to make one a connoisseur of art or food. "Gastronome" is a word I like, by the way. It has a nice ring to it. Understanding of, appreciation of and liking for, are three different things. I think there must have been a twenty year period in my life in which I don't think I've had a dozen burgers, yet recently they've become a staple again.

Can one be a connoisseur of American coffee? I'd rather have a lousy espresso than the best American coffee. Do we all have limitations on what we can appreciate? Can some of these be claimed as proof of discriminating tastes.
Robert Buxbaum
WorldTable
Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.
My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

#15 Steven Blaski

Steven Blaski
  • participating member
  • 155 posts

Posted 29 September 2005 - 11:20 PM

To me it's a lost word, corrupted by false and lazy marketing. I'm speaking of the way that the word is used and understood almost universally now by the general population. I can't even use the word without blushing. It's ... icky. As a noun it now signifies a fusty, prissy buffoon. As an adjective it's fake-amaretto-flavored-ground coffee reserved for "special moments."

The only time I ever say the word is when referring to Steve Lawrence's wife and singing partner.

#16 vmilor

vmilor
  • participating member
  • 345 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 03:30 AM

In my subjective lexicon I called somebodygourmet (and of course thought of myself to be one too)if two conditions were satisfied:

1. The sheer joy of eating well is so important to them that their spirit soar if they eat well and they are in bad mood if they don't. They are willing to forsake a money making or influence peddling opportunity (say a company dinner where they are supposed to show up) if they think food will be lousy.

2. They are discriminating. But this discrimination is not based on snobbism (like I only call Thomas' food great type) but on ingredient quality. So a gourmet, when tasting the "oysters and pearls", will first look at the quality of the oyster and the caviar in question before passing judgment about its texture and the role of tapioca in terms of its complimentarity with other ingredients, etc. (This is just an example. Personally I will forgive an expensive restaurant for not using top beluga but I will never forgive if they don't have good eggs or potatoes or non farmed fish)

I wholeheartedly agree that excessive reliance on multi star restaurants is not a necessary condition. I would even go farther and say that it may prevent a true appreciation of food. What goes on in most super celebrated restaurants nowdays is a quite fussy, over elaborate and sometimes tormented/tortured form of cooking on the basis of multi course meals that it is not uncommon to hear even experienced diners proclaim "I can't recall what I have eaten but it was....so Good!). The truth is one can hardly understand the real taste of natural ingredients and how good they can get eating in super hip places run by celebrity chefs.

#17 Carrot Top

Carrot Top
  • legacy participant
  • 4,164 posts

Posted 30 September 2005 - 08:02 AM

The word "gourmet" puts me to sleep.

Oh. (Edited to add) Not pleasantly.

Edited by Carrot Top, 30 September 2005 - 08:03 AM.


#18 Pan

Pan
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 15,544 posts
  • Location:East Village, Manhattan

Posted 30 September 2005 - 01:59 PM

In my subjective lexicon I called somebodygourmet (and of course thought of myself to be one too)if two conditions were satisfied:

1. The sheer joy of eating well is so important to them that their spirit soar if they eat well and they are in bad mood if they don't. They are willing to forsake a money making or influence peddling opportunity (say a company dinner where they are supposed to show up) if they think food will be lousy.[...]

View Post


Very subjective indeed, Vedat! You would deny that someone is a gourmet if they're willing to subject themselves to bad food occasionally, when that's necessary to keep their job and advance their career?