Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Gourmet, Gourmand or Glutton

Finished reading a collection of essays on gluttony, one of which was G is for Gluttony by M.F.K. Fisher. I forget sometimes what a great writer she was. It is her style of reporting that was honest and reported food as it was happening around her in both high and low culture. It is one of the reasons why I started a blog.

I doubt I will ever become as good as a writer as Fisher was but I hope that I can reflect what is happening with me and food. Hopefully, this will make a few people smile or think a little different. 

Her description of a gluttony is when "I know I have had more than I want physically." Got me to thinking how I would define those three related terms; gourmet, gourmand and glutton. 
Gourmets eat what they like, gourmands like what they eat and gluttons eat more than they like.
So, at a dinner party where there is a buffet or sit down service, a gourmet would have a few things on their plate. At a sit down, maybe there is some scattered pieces of fish pushed around to make it look as if they had eaten it when in reality, it did not meet their standard. In other words, a picky or  discerning eater, if one was being gracious.

The gourmand would have taken a bit of everything and finished everything on their plate. Maybe they would have shown some gusto for a particular morsel and gone back or asked for seconds. There would definitely be a discussion on the food, pointing out the high points of the meal so far.

The glutton hovers and finishes first one plate and then another and maybe sits back until all others have had their fill. If there is a buffet, then they will be the first and last to sup greatly from the offerings. Often, they will be seen looking wistfully at an empty plate if at a sit down dinner. Maybe they will be stopping somewhere afterwards for a bit more.

Gourmet has lost its meaning. If you accept that being a gourmet is the highest of the words and most desirable then in today's vernacular, you will be disappointed. If it is intended to mean a person with a discerning palate or that what feeds them, then why is this word plastered everywhere. Are we to believe that discerning palates are so commonplace that it requires candy, bread and baby food to meet their high standards? Even pets are so discerning to deserve feasts foisted on them. It just means picky or nothing.

Gourmand has often taken heat. It means someone who enjoys food and sometimes eats too much. This was seen as a cardinal sin in earlier times. I put myself into this position and strive to be a good gourmand. I love eating at other people's houses. Given my own prowess and sometimes pickiness on my own cooking, some people worry that I hold them to that status. In reality, as long as someone tries, I am happy to eat at their table. I have been known to eat fish, which I avoid, when dining at a friend's because they are proud to have made me one of their favourite dishes. They do a good job and I appreciate it. Loving food isn't the sin but gluttony is.

Gluttony. Eating more than you physically should. We all do it at some point. There are whole holidays dedicated to unbuttoning pants or slacks with shifting panels. One of my earliest memories of a regretful meal was when I was about six or seven. There were burgers on parade. I believe that I almost ate my age in burgers on those Weston type buns with ketchup. The burgers were greasy and salty and I can almost still taste them. When I had reached a number similar to three, I recall my mother saying that I shouldn't eat any more because I was going to make myself sick. Luckily, my father interceded and allowed the excess to continue existing. I went to bed that night with stomach round and prideful. Two sins in one. I awoke in the middle of the night with pillow red and face warm from the bloody nose. I learned my lesson for a short while.

While I feel there is a fine line between gourmand and glutton, I do not believe there is any reason to never enjoy your food. I don't mean like the thing you are eating but enjoy the act of eating and receiving what is cooked for your enjoyment. You can be critical but not to the point of prejudging the food into not trying or taking some delight in dining. But, of course, as one twitterer put it, gourmet means nothing anymore. I suppose that sometimes we should just shut up and eat.

1 comment:

  1. The Art of Eating by Fisher is the book I was trying to think of on Sunday afternoon.