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RIP Gourmet (the Magazine). Let's Kill the Word "Gourmet"


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I was one who bemoaned the loss of Gourmet magazine. (Click here for a discussion.) But I'm wondering if there isn't a silver lining here.

How about we kill the word "gourmet"? Are there any remaining uses for this word that aren't either stupid or ironic (and, at this point, irony may be entirely stupid as well).

Would you go to a place that announces it serves "gourmet food"?

Don't you cringe when a family member tells you they're taking you to a great new place "because you like that gourmet stuff"?

Have you settled back in your chair, looked at the delicious meal you cooked and were about to serve, and thought, "Now THAT's gonna be a gourmet feast!"

Do you wake yourself up with a snappy retort to the mirror like "It's gonna be a great day, you gourmet!"? I don't.

Let's collect all the remaining references we know to the word "gourmet" and scrutinize them. Perhaps we can do the world a service and retire the word for good, much like "ether" and "horseless carriage."

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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My 10-year-old foodie recently took to the word and has been asking for "gourmet" this and that:

"Dad, what kind of cheese is that?"

"Grafton Village sharp cheddar."

"Is that more gourmet than the Cabot?"

"Uh... I dunno, taste it. You tell me. What does 'gourmet' mean to you?"

I am hoping that my eyerolling will break him of the habit of usage... better now than later in life.

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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Your parenting is a model for us all, sir. Spare the rod....

Here's a useful paragraph about this Francophilic fetish for context, courtesy of Alan Davidson's Oxford Companion to Food:

Gourmet: a word which came into the English language from French as a noun, meaning somebody who takes a discriminating and informed interest in food. Since then, especially in N. America, it has become an adjective; a "gourmet food" is one which will supposedly appeal to such a person. This development has probably had the result that fewer of he people who might have been glad to be called "gourmets" 50 years ago are now willing to be so described. The word may eventually cease to have any significance, except in a historical context.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Like this quote implies, I think this word's crawling into the grave and pulling the dirt in on itself as we speak. It's a relic of a time when imitating French food culture was the only thing to do--we're so way beyond that now that, like you say Chris, the irony's not even there. Not to get too far off the "gourmet" bashing topic, but I wonder when and why the same thing will happen to "foodie"? I suspect it too is a word of its time.

nunc est bibendum...

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It's starting to sound a bit like "dandy" or "swell," but I think it's not as horrific as "foodie."

I don't like multiple choice surveys in general, but when I write a restaurant blurb on Open Table, I don't know that I would cringe more by ticking off "pour les gourmets" than I do when I check "fit for foodies."

Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)
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"Gourmet" lost whatever credibility it had when it got applied to frozen TV dinners.

As for "foodie," it's such a childish-sounding word it took me a while to figure out it wasn't self-effacing humor or hamfisted irony on the part of whoever was using it. I'll be happy when it's gone.

"Frozen pizza and microwave Tater Tots again? Man, you're such a foodie."

Do we really need a special word for food that isn't horrible junk and the people who eat it?

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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Do we really need a special word for food that isn't horrible junk and the people who eat it?

I submit that we do. I don't like "foodie" either but it's the descriptive word we have at the moment.

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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I love the word 'gourmet' when I read it in one of my old bound issues of Gourmet or when I read it in an old book. It's a word that, to me, is evocative of another time. But I HATE being called a gourmet by well-intentioned friends. 'Foodie' makes my skin crawl. I think that we DO need a designation, but I have no idea what that would be. I refuse to use "I'm into food". I usually just say that I am interested in cooking and food. That's a little unwieldy, but at least it doesn't sound pretentious.

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Do we really need a special word for food that isn't horrible junk and the people who eat it?

Considering the food landscape of the United States, yes. Based on what I see in the shopping carts, we still have a very long way to go. The average American seems to exist mainly on reheatable frozen food and cola.

My completely unscientific wild-assed guess is that about 15% of the people give a damn about what they eat. The rest will eat anything -- so long as it's loaded with salt and fat. And it's easy to reheat.

"Foodie," for me at least, is interchangeable with Epicurean -- taking modest pleasure in life. I think there's still plenty of room for both words in the language. "Gourmet" should be returned to the French -- with our deepest apologies -- for repair and some TLC.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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For certain purposes, the word is darn near indispensable, to wit:

Bob longed to be charming for Mae

He purchased the hits by Torme

He cut off his mullet

Then he joined eGullet

And considered himself a gourmet

Few words serve an artist who needs a rhyme for "Torme" but "gourmet" is one of them.

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"Gourmet" should be returned to the French -- with our deepest apologies -- for repair and some TLC.

Sacre bleu! I doubt they'd have it back. It's like some plaid Yves St Laurent leisure suit: it ain't France's fault we wore it, and they sure don't want to start now.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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The rest will eat anything -- so long as it's loaded with salt and fat.

And sugar. Don't forget the sugar. (Even in places where it Totally Does Not Belong -- my supermarket deli is chock-full of "honey" flavored products nowadays. Have we been so infantilized that we need our turkey sweetened before we'll consent to eat it? Sigh.)

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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So what descriptor would real estate agents use to describe a nicely appointed, well-functioning kitchen with high-end appliances if they didn't call it a "gourmet kitchen"? My offhand definition isn't rigorous, but I think that's what they mean to imply with the term.

The subsidiary question is: what does the term "gourmet kitchen" conjure in the minds of the rest of you? Kitsch? Overdone extravagance? Lap of luxury? Conspicuous consumption? Well-equipped, fully functioning kitchen with nice accoutrements and high-end appliances?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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So what descriptor would real estate agents use to describe a nicely appointed, well-functioning kitchen with high-end appliances if they didn't call it a "gourmet kitchen"? My offhand definition isn't rigorous, but I think that's what they mean to imply with the term.

Having spent a bit too much time looking at houses the last several years, I can tell you that a "gourmet kitchen" in this neck of the woods looks precisely like this:

Overdone extravagance? ... Conspicuous consumption?

It's meant, that is to say, to convey "ooh la la" to McMansion buyers, not to serve as a kitchen for someone who actually takes cooking seriously.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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If it comes up, "I like to cook" and "I like to eat" work fine for me. They convey exactly what I want to say without the nasty exclusivist subtext you get from "foodie" or "gourmet" (if anyone still takes that word seriously).

I guess epicurean and sybaritic would work as adjectives for a certain kind of good eatin' too but I dare you to describe yourself as an epicure with a straight face...

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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It's meant, that is to say, to convey "ooh la la" to McMansion buyers, not to serve as a kitchen for someone who actually takes cooking seriously.

I am currently trying to buy some more copper pans and a pot rack from someone on the internet. The description? "All-Clad Cop*R*Chef -- never used. Just used for decoration."

Who the hell buys All-Clad and then hangs them on a rack and looks at them?

Having looked at a lot of houses recently, "Gourmet kitchen" means "Viking appliances that show no signs of use. A Sub-Zero fridge that has only held bottled water. A honed granite countertop that is totally unsuitable for cooking. And a ridiculous range-side spigot for filling pasta pots."

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Who the hell buys All-Clad and then hangs them on a rack and looks at them?

Back in my days at Sur La Table, I had a customer who came in to buy Mauviel copper cookware. She'd just redone her kitchen. I suggested the heavier line with iron handles, but she liked the brass handled line because it was "prettier." As I suggested useful cooking pieces, she kept picking out whimsical serving pieces, such as a set of four graduated gratin dishes. All the sudden it occurred to me that she wasn't going to use any of this; it was just to make the new kitchen look "gourmet." We got along fine after that: she spent $2700 for her gourmet kitchen, and I made my sales goal for the week.

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Who the hell buys All-Clad and then hangs them on a rack and looks at them?

Back in my days at Sur La Table, I had a customer who came in to buy Mauviel copper cookware. She'd just redone her kitchen. I suggested the heavier line with iron handles, but she liked the brass handled line because it was "prettier." As I suggested useful cooking pieces, she kept picking out whimsical serving pieces, such as a set of four graduated gratin dishes. All the sudden it occurred to me that she wasn't going to use any of this; it was just to make the new kitchen look "gourmet." We got along fine after that: she spent $2700 for her gourmet kitchen, and I made my sales goal for the week.

She reminds me a bit of myself in my wannabe days. I bought the grandest stuff my meager budget would allow. Took me years, yes years, to realize that having cooking equipment would not make me a good cook. Once I got that figured out, I started cooking every chance I got, read every cooking magazine I could - and actually tried some of the recipes - and I actually began to have a chance at becoming a halfway decent cook.

Still, we do need a new word. I don't mind "foodie", but so many people do object to it, it hardly matters. It would help, also, if it were one that differentiated someone who was very serious about cooking and eating, from someone who almost never cooks but jumps on every food bandwagon as it passes by.

As far as I'm concerned, though, "gourmet" is dead and buried. It's pretentious and overused, to the point of being meaningless.

Edited by jgm (log)
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Few words serve an artist who needs a rhyme for "Torme" but "gourmet" is one of them.

I respectfully beg to differ! It's often pronounced that way, but "gourmet" shouldn't rhyme with "Torme."

"Gour—" rhymes with "pure" and "lure." (So, for that matter, does "tour," often mispronounced "tore.") . A better rhyme for "gourmet" would be "puree."

And I agree with Mr. Amirault. Time to eighty-six the word!

Edited by BrooksNYC (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Still, we do need a new word. I don't mind "foodie", but so many people do object to it, it hardly matters. It would help, also, if it were one that differentiated someone who was very serious about cooking and eating, from someone who almost never cooks but jumps on every food bandwagon as it passes by.

I don't think we do need a new word. Look around eG Forums: there's a remarkably wide range of people posting here who don't fit neatly into a single term. Restaurant nuts who haven't prepared a meal themselves in a decade; people who obsess about one cuisine and are happily ignorant of others; chocolatiers, mixologists, charcutiers; newbies and veterans; professionals, passionate amateurs, and the curious. What word could encompass us all?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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  • 2 weeks later...

Quote:

" Let's collect all the remaining references we know to the word "gourmet" and scrutinize them. Perhaps we can do the world a service and retire the word for good, much like "ether" and "horseless carriage. "

Super Markets with "Gourmet Isles"

merchandising Marzipan, Brisling Sardines, Mole Sauce, German Sauerkraut and Red Cabbage, Maggi Soups and Biscotti

Contact your local Market and request, no, demand: "do the world a service and retire the word 'Gourmet' for good

Peter
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My completely unscientific wild-assed guess is that about 15% of the people give a damn about what they eat.

Based on my also completely unscientific guess I would think that 15% is very optimistic. In my exeperience at least 1/3 of people I know (perhaps more likely half of it) couldn't care less what they eat for lunch at example my company. Food is good for them as long as it keeps them ggoing.

Edited by Honkman (log)
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