What Does “Gourmet” Mean?

The word “gourmet” is thrown around a lot these days. It is used to describe food, coffee, restaurants, cookware, and even pet food. The funny thing is that “gourmet” is not technically an adjective: it is a noun!

By definition, a gourmet is a person with a sensitive and discriminating palate, and who is knowledgeable in the appreciation of haute cuisine. A gourmand is someone who simply enjoys foods in large quantities while an epicure is similar to a gourmet in refinement, but tends to indulge to the point of excess. Recently the term foodie has been introduced into our vernacular, and it is intended to be a conversational synonym for gourmet.

The word “gourmet” has French roots and originally meant “a wine merchant’s assistant,” implying that such a person would have a refined palate for delicious things that were not eaten primarily for nourishment. For much of history, however, the word has carried a negative connotation, especially one of a gluttonous nature. Even in present day discussions, some camps feel that “gourmet” is a haughty, expensive enterprise while others use the word to indicate fine foods of high quality and excellent preparation.

So what does this all mean? Obviously we use the word “gourmet” frequently when describing our different foods and gift baskets. I tend to use it when wanting to convey quality of ingredients, refinement in taste, and distinction in appearance and preparation.

“Gourmet” is simply one of those words that is undergoing its own evolution in our language and whose usage is still largely a matter of personal preference.

1 Comment
  1. Thanks for posting this, I sent it to my brother and he loves it too.

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