Monday, February 12, 2007

Foodie vs. Gourmet

I think of myself as a “foodie,” but what the heck is a foodie, anyway? Some say it's a group of people with special interest and knowledge of food. Some think they travel the world and only dine in the best restaurants and then set themselves up as self-published critics. My take on the matter is a little different, but in order to explain it, I need to talk about what a gourmet is, first.

Gourmet is actually a corruption of the title of a French wine valet or possibly grommet, a boy servant. Under current usage a gourmet is someone who is knowledgeable about fine food and drink. In other words, a connoisseur of food. In the business of food it's used to describe foods and beverages that are particularly high in quality. Unfortunately, it also gets used in advertising to market foods that are of a particularly low quality to the point of becoming meaningless.

I'm not kidding. Next time to you go to the grocery store, hit the hot dog section and count how many different brands you can find that claim to be "gourmet hot dogs." How in God's green earth can you have a "gourmet hot dog?" Gourmet bratwurst maybe, but a gourmet hot dog? Please!

The word "gourmet" can also modify words like "restaurant" and "cooking." Again, this is all about finding high quality food. Sadly, it also includes foods that have an acquired taste. "Acquired taste" means that most people think it tastes awful and you have to get used to it. Often such food also comes with a high price tag because it's hard to get and there is little demand for it.

Sometimes, "gourmand" gets used in place of the word "gourmet" when referring to people who know and love food. Not many people like the term gourmand, though. It can have the same connotation that "glutton" does. "Epicure" gets thrown around in some circles, but it seems to imply excessive refinement. In other words, epicures are arrogant and self-important gourmets. Most of the time, this idea is accompanied by thoughts of talented chefs in expensive restaurants and strict dress codes.

Foodies are on the other end of the "gourmet spectrum." Like gourmets, foodies like good food and drink. If the good is good, they're willing to go out of the way to get it, and pay more money for it. Unlike epicures, they don't get self-righteous about it. For a foodie, a good burger (or hot dog) is just as worthy of attention as foie gras and caviar. In fact, finding the best hot dog stand in the city might be considered a great adventure for a foodie.

Hmm. Maybe foodies do have more in common with gourmands than gourmets.

No comments: