Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

canapé a French word which basically means sofa or couch, has become a culinary term in France since the late 18th century, when it was applied by analogy to the thin pieces of fried or toasted bread which served as supports for various savoury toppings. A century later, in the 1890s, it became an English word referring to a titbit of this kind. Now that yet another hundred years have passed, the usage continues, although it sounds old-fashioned and is most likely to be found in contexts such as catered receptions or ‘cocktail parties’. The modern practice of offering guests in western restaurants a titbit before the meal proper begins, calling it an amuse-gueule, may go someway towards extending the lifespan of canapés, although often departing from the ‘something sitting on a square of toast or a cracker’ formula.