Gourmet Magazine was the premier fine cooking magazine in America with a publication run from 1941 until its abrupt closing in 2009. They still have
an active website with contemporary updates in the culinary tradition of their printed counterpart.
I began thinking about the word gourmet after the local newspaper posted a headline touting the gourmet food at a local Italian eatery. The article described the eatery's delicious menu of sandwiches, salads and desserts. I have eaten at the establishment in question, and it is really good. But for two reasons, the application of gourmet in this case struck me as disingenuous.
First, the reporter applied the term gourmet to sandwiches and salads.
Secondly, renowned Italian chef and cookbook author Marcella Hazan describes all Italian cuisine, despite the region, as la cucina di casa. In the introduction to her book The Essentials of Classical Italian Cooking Hazan declares "there is no such thing as Italian haute cuisine because there are no high or low roads in Italian cooking; all roads lead to home." That does not sound like gourmet, but like great food prepared by my mama or nana for the family.
By those definitions, the use of the word gourmet as a snobbish descriptor is uncalled for. Is the food pictured 'gourmet'? Some would say yes. There are subtle techniques and flavors incorporated into this dish. However, with my Thursday Burger Challenges, would I now be a 'burger gourmet' as I have spent a lot of time studying the details, technique and principles of a well crafted hamburger?
Instead of labeling the person doing the cooking or the eating, let us keep our focus on the food. Is it fresh, well prepared, properly seasoned with balanced flavors and delicious to eat? Then 'gourmet' or not, that is the food to fuel the body, bring together the family and feed the soul.