If gourmet food means food that uses quality ingredients and is meticulously prepared and presented, can you call your barbecued beef burger gourmet if you use the best beef steak and add flavours and seasoning before putting on the fire? It is then presented on a bed of nicely prepared lettuce and tomatoes. You probably couldn’t but it is a grey area when it comes to that opinion. Gourmet implies more than the food itself; it implies refinement with taste and some would say that BBQs don’t qualify. You may respond by suggesting it is the opinion of a snob and perhaps you are right.
Burgers are very common; there is no rarity or exclusivity gourmets may suggest. They are inexpensive and widely available. Something that might be part of the staple diet in one part of the world could be gourmet in another because there it is rare.
There are grains in South America that form part of the peasant farmers’ diet yet are rarely exported. A gourmet would delight in finding them on a favourite restaurant’s menu. They would be regarded as gourmet and the price vastly inflated. It is rather like that South American peasant being faced with a £100 bill for that common little beef burger. Clearly there are some subjective issues regarding the gourmet’s opinion on quality. What isn’t in doubt is that there is a demand for good food and quality. If you are looking for luxury food gifts, you will be giving a present that is a little bit different when so often presents are the same each year.
Scarcity determines price and the most expensive products will only be found in expensive restaurants or be bought on a regular basis by people who are well off. For the rest, these things are a treat for a special occasion. As illustrated above it may weaken a gourmet’s case to claim that quality is always a factor in determining whether the description is valid. Perhaps the word ‘exotic’ might be more accurate at times. Certainly the case that suggests some grains from South America are gourmet and 100% top quality beef product is not may not stand up to scrutiny.
Luxury on the other hand implies quality every time. It is applied to everything from cars to clothes, from accommodation to food. Anyone giving a present accurately described as luxury will be showing how much they value the person who is the recipient. Luxury does not have to cost a fortune but it is always special. Rarity does not necessarily make something special; sometimes it is a blessing. The debate might continue on what’s considered to be ‘gourmet’, but not on what’s ‘special’.
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