What Does Gourmet Mean?

I once made the horrible mistake of asking my daughter Meredith if she knew what the word “gourmet” meant.

She was about 9 years old then and was at sleep-away camp. That was in the olden days when people still wrote letters. I wrote her a letter and for some reason that I have forgotten I used the word gourmet and asked if she knew what it meant.

She still teases me about it.

She is now a mother of two kids, one who is slightly older than she was when I asked. I would never ask my grandson that question because it’s so obvious he would know the answer. 

What was I thinking?

Of course she knew what gourmet meant. She grew up with a Mom who wrote about food and used a meat hammer and hung ducks from strings near the window to be ready for the Peking Duck we would roast in one of my cooking classes.

But even back then the word gourmet was everywhere. Even more so now. 

If you look in a dictionary you’d find that gourmet means a person who is a connoisseur of good food. Or something elaborately equipped for fine food — like a gourmet kitchen.

Or, in the most usual way — having exotic or high quality ingredients.

Like, for instance the gourmet egg salad at your local bodega, because the cook added some fresh dill. 

Or the local Diner’s grilled cheese sandwich because they make it with cheddar or mozzarella instead of American cheese.

Today you can buy frozen gourmet dinners. You can even buy frozen gourmet low-calorie dinners. Gourmet tuna salad (with shaved baby carrots) at the health food store. Gourmet Veal Piccata at the supermarket takeout.

Frankly, I’m not sure what gourmet means. Some of it seems terribly dumbed down to me.

Can someone please help me? Is food gourmet when you add fresh herbs? When you use sriracha sauce instead of ketchup?

When you cook anything from scratch rather than open up a can or package (as opposed to frozen dinners which, as I have mentioned, is available gourmet)?

What if you add veal and turkey meatballs to Spaghettios?

Or guacamole on top of a hamburger?

Anyway, maybe grilled steak isn’t gourmet. On the other hand, maybe if you marinate it with a ginger and hoisin sauce marinade it is?

Just in case, here is my gourmet recipe for Grilled Skirt or Flank Steak with Ginger-Hoisin Sauce Marinade.

Grilled Skirt/Flank Steak with Ginger-Hoisin Sauce Marinade

1-1/2 to 2 pounds skirt or flank steak

1 cup red wine

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chili sauce (such as sriracha)

1/2 teaspoon sesame seed oil

salt to taste

Place the meat in a non-reactive dish. Mix together the red wine, olive oil, hoisin sauce, ginger, garlic, chili sauce, sesame seed oil and salt, if desired. Pour over the meat, turn the meat to coat all sides and let marinate for 1-2 hours. Preheat an outdoor grill or oven broiler. Cook the meat 2-3 minutes per side or until cooked to desired doneness. Makes 4 servings