WINE Q and A |

WINE Q and A

Q. I’m having a problem with two words, “gourmet” and “gourmand.” My husband says it’s all about fancy food, and eating too much. I agree somewhat, but is there something else I’m missing?

A. First off, this is not an easy question to answer straightforwardly. In reality it’s a three-pronged question of three words: “gourmand,” meaning a person fond of sweet things; “gormandise,” one who eats greedily; and the one word we are all too familiar with “gourmet,” meaning an epicure – a judge of wines.

To begin, let’s admit there’s something contagious about the word “gourmet.”

Maybe it’s remembering an elaborate dinner at a friend’s home or farmers’ markets that captivate the imagination with enticing fresh-food displays.

Whatever the source of the enchantment, there’s no denying the allure of dining out, with the word gourmet in mind.

The word “gourmet,” a French invention from the Middle Ages, has become an American obsession. Books, magazines, television and radio talk shows whet the appetite with the written and spoken message of gourmet, and yet few, if any, understand its original definition.

Gourmet, in its simplest terms, is an art of gastronomy that transforms basic, fresh, natural ingredients into edible portions that “marry with wine.” Detrimental ingredients that clash and cause a divorce on the tastebuds for wine’s wedding with food are curry, mustard, chocolate, mint, citrus fruit and vinegar – in any combination.

Gastronomy through the ages developed the gourmet, that person who gives priority to the discriminate enjoyment of food and wine. The danger for this refined dining is the urge by fast- food manufactures and outlets to change food into a processed state so it may be stored for a long time, either packaged or frozen. We are constantly bombarded with the selling point of no return to nature’s bounty, by advertising of anything edible as easy to prepare and consume. One of the prices of our modern civilization is the subtle-yet-undeniable loss of flavor. The difference between gourmet dining and eating in a hurry is a dissimilarity of two worlds – the old and the new. The marriage of delicate natural ingredients, both in food and wine, is an Old World elegance, between convenience eating and enjoyable dining. But thank goodness in America there is a choice: fast-food preparation outlets versus gourmet wine dining in home and restaurants.

Those who show kindness to animals are sometimes incapable of enjoying a great dining experience. A lady at a dinner typified that attitude when tongue was being served. She said, “How can you eat that when you know it came out of some animal’s mouth?” “Why, my dear,” said her dinner companion, “have an egg instead.”

The gourmet is one of the rare people who take the feeding and clothing of man with utmost seriousness. The logic of gastronomic art is clear. Man has five senses and, just as painting corresponds to sight or music to hearing, gastronomy is the art that corresponds to smell and taste. It is the most selfless art because it is, by definition, perishable.

The risk for the gourmet is over refinement. When cooking chops, you put three in the oven, one on top of the other, but you only eat the one in the middle which absorbed the juice of the two others.

Then there is this one: Never eat the left leg of the lamb; for that is the leg it sits on, which makes the circulation sluggish and less tender.

As long as there are men who say to themselves, “Rejoice my little stomach, all that I earn is yours,” then the word “gourmet” is safe.

Norman E. Gates can be reached at

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