Ah, the world of gourmet food – a trip into a culinary land of the weird and wonderful. Whether cooking it up at home or treating yourself to a fancy restaurant (that will probably leave a dent in your bank account), eating gourmet food is an experience within itself! This does lead to the question that may be on the mind of many… when can we define something as gourmet and what sets this precedent?
We recently asked this to our global community with some in favour of it, whilst others, not so much! Answers ranged all the way from ‘a technique or ingredient that elevates the dish’, to gourmet food being ‘overdone and overpriced’. What could come as a surprise is that a ton of gourmet food has a whole history behind it… including not even being gourmet to begin with! Some of these truly surprised us, let’s see if you feel the same…
Caviar has been dubbed as one of the most expensive foods in the world and is associated with wealth and luxury, but what exactly is it? To put it simply, caviar is fish eggs! In appearance, they look to be small beads which vary in colour according to where they came from. For example, black eggs are from sturgeon fish, whereas orange to red eggs are typically from salmon.
Whilst caviar is seen as extremely valuable today, fishermen from the likes of Britain, Russia and various other countries used caviar as condiments for the table due to easy access – especially on top of potatoes! Nowadays, caviar is commonly served cold on crackers or dry toast. If you’re feeling adventurous, we’d recommend reading this article which suggests how to eat caviar on basically anything!
If a restaurant serves lobster, you almost always know you’re about to splash the cash! Once considered to be ‘cockroaches of the sea’ because of their appearance (harsh, we know!), lobsters were very often cast aside… until recently. Since their economic and social value increased in the 1800s, lobsters are now seen as Michelin star restaurant food – oh how the dining tables have turned! In fact, in quite a dramatic contrast, lobsters were once fed to prisoners and even used as bait for fishing hooks.
Given its versatile nature, there are many ways to serve lobster, for example, in salads, pasta, mac and cheese, boujee sandwiches – the list is endless! Did you know that lobster was included in Elvis Presley’s iconic wedding breakfast menu? Not typically what you’d think to eat in the morning, which is why his unique choices made foodie history. Check out our video in which Chef Ebbers recreates this menu!
Brisket is a cut from the lower breast or chest of a cow and is known for being a classic dish, particularly in Texas, USA. It is popularly served as a sandwich and it might even be criminal to not have it on the menu of BBQ restaurants! This didn’t begin to happen until the 1950s and then officially became a standard in the mid-’70s.
Brisket was first seen as a budget cut of meat that was very easily sourced in Texas – a win for the locals and the Eastern European immigrants that were settling in the state at the time. Whilst it was seen as a cut of meat consumed for convenience and even being ground up to make dishes such as hamburgers, it is now a delicacy that can be hard to perfect when cooking at home!
Funnily enough, oysters were also included in Elvis’s wedding breakfast menu! Oysters are associated with opulence, considered an aphrodisiac by many and valued for their nutritional benefits (high in vitamin D and B12). However, this wasn’t always the case…
It is said that in the early 19th century, oysters were extraordinarily cheap and mainly eaten by the working class. They became particularly popular in New York at the time as its harbour was the largest source of the shellfish! Eventually, due to the damage that manmade solutions to increase production was causing, oysters became wildly scarce – explaining the price rise!
Quinoa is associated with a healthy lifestyle and just like rice, can be served up in many dishes. Not so long ago, the quinoa vs rice debate took parts of the world by storm, with many seeking out quinoa (a plant with edible seeds) instead due to its health benefits! It’s full of fibre, light and cooks quickly – but when did it become so popular?
Until the 20th century, quinoa crops were mainly grown by poor farmers in Peru and Bolivia around 3000 – 5000 years ago; two of the biggest producers of quinoa. It is even known to hold great religious significance to indigenous people! Fast forward to 2006 and quinoa was labelled a superfood by America and Europe, leading to its price having TRIPLED up to 2013… The irony of this being, that many of the farmers who grow the grain and indigenous people of these countries now can’t afford to eat quinoa.
So, after reading this, the big question remains… is gourmet food a way to expand your taste horizons and treat yourself, or is it gentrification of centuries-old food? We wonder if we as a society are drawn to the taste of the dish, or the sense of luxury associated with it…