Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

In the French language, the word originally designated an accomplished wine-taster, deriving from the Old French gromet, a valet or shop-boy at the wine merchant’s. In the 17th century someone who appreciated the taste of wine was called a coteau (presumably because he knew which hillside it may have come from). A delicate eater, a gourmet avant la lettre, was then a friand (and friandises must have appealed to them). Gourmet retained its specific link to wine throughout the 18th century. The word ‘gourmand’ took care of the food. In English, a use is not cited by the OED before 1820, while gourmand has been current since the Middle Ages. The rise of a word that may be related more to connoisseurship than appetite has something to do with the history of taste.