Wednesday, April 14, 2010

History of Appetizers and Hors d’oeuvre

History of Appetizers and Hors d’oeuvre
Appetizers and hors of d’oeuvre the latter literally meaning “outside of the work”- assume a wide variety of forms in American dining.

Late twenty century dictionaries treat appetizers and hors d’oeuvres –popularly understood to be bite-sized finger foods offered at cocktail parties and receptions – as synonyms.

Americans also use “appetizer” to indicate the first course eaten when seated at table in a three course (appetizer, main course, dessert) meal.

Virtually all cultures have indulged in pre-prandial morsels designed to whet the appetite for more substantial across cultures in offering salty foods as stimulants.

The ancient Greeks and Romans sampled bits of fish, seasoned vegetables, cheese and olives while the Renaissance Italian writer Platina recommended thin rolls of grilled veal to stimulate the appetite for food and drink.

Wealthy Frenchmen picked at hors d’oeuvre throughout fancy meals from the late seventeenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries, when little plates and their suggested contents – ranging from oysters, stuffed eggs and plates to slices of beef tongue or braised quails were shown on table layouts illustrating dinners served a la française.

Those American who emulated that French model a variety of hors of d’oeuvre (the plural is used only in English) part of the American table and offered them throughout the meal as a palate refresher, until the desserts were served.

Styles of service changed radically in the nineteenth century, evolving to the successive, multicourse structure of formal contemporary meals.

The role of hors d’oeuvres in the structure of meal changed as well. Although simple hors d’oeuvres such as olives, radishes, celery and nuts remained on the table throughout the meal, by the late nineteenth century, more complicated hors d’oeuvres, sometimes called “dainty dishes” – such as small pastry cases filled with bits of meat in creamy sauce - had become a separate course after the soup was served.

The term “appetizers” seems to have appeared nearly simultaneously in England and America in the 1860s simply to provide an Anglophone equivalent for the French hors d’oeuvre.

By the 1890s, both appetizers and hors d’oeuvres could appear within the same elegant menu.

One writer in 1896 describes appetizers as an optional first course preceding soup, that is set on the table prior to a party’s entering the dining room.

These appetizers were most often raw oysters or clams, but they might be small canapés, such as caviar on toast.

The writer assumed that celery, salted nuts and the like would fill the table throughout the meal and she described the host to place these “various hors d’oeuvres within reach of each guest , these appetizers serving to fill in the time between course.”
History of Appetizers and Hors d’oeuvre