Lispian Random meanderings on whatever catches my fancy

Gourmet vs. Gourmand

Getting to middle age was probably a big deal back a few hundred years ago, but today it’s just a pain, literally.

This week I got to enjoy more middle-aged pain courtesy of diverticulitis and doctor ordered rest and a clear liquids-only diet. That meant I had lots of time to sit around and watch TV, read, or surf the internet. What I learned was that being told to rest and recuperate is hard.

But I endured and one of the shows I watched was Love It or List It. My wife and I get a kick out of watching the antics of the families as they try to comprehend that no renovation ever goes quite as smoothly as one would like. But what got me was the constant references to “gourmet kitchens”.

And that reminded me of house hunting and the various renovations that folks have done on older homes. My wife and I occasionally go to open houses to see what’s available, thinking that one day when the kids are gone we’ll downsize (or “rightsize” as one of her friends insists). What I’ve discovered is that most people don’t know the difference between a gourmet — someone who loves to cook — versus a gourmand — someone who loves to eat.

To put this in a way we can all understand, a gourmet is Jacques Pepin. A gourmand is Nero Wolfe or Fat Bastard from the Austin Power films. One can be both, but usually one is one or the other.

Thus, when I watched the TV shows or walked through the open houses I have noticed that whoever designs these kitchens is clueless when it comes to what a gourmet would want in a kitchen. If a gourmet is designing a kitchen they want at least 4 burners and at least a double oven. Yet, most renovated kitchens have a range with a single oven. To me the designers of these kitchens are building kitchens for gourmands. And that sucks. Especially if you’re out looking to downsize and you walk into what some realtor has said is a “gourmet kitchen” only to find a standard range.

I’ve come to the sad realization that most people associate “gourmet kitchen” with “granite counter tops”. Yet the type of counter top is immaterial to whether it’s a gourmet kitchen or not. Anyone who’s seen Julia Child’s kitchen in the Smithsonian can easily see it is not laid with granite or any other stone. I’m sure she’d have loved it, but it’s unnecessary. What you will see is at least 2 ovens and 8 or 10 burners. She was a gourmet! A chef!

Which brings me to a phrase I sometimes see: “chef’s kitchen”. I have yet to see any of these kitchens actually resemble what any self-respecting chef would use.

I know, I know, it’s marketing. They’re not catering to the small number of people who know how to make puff pastry or make Beef Wellington, let alone bake 10 loaves of bread in an afternoon. They want to sell the house and if claiming the kitchen is a “chef’s kitchen” or a “gourmet kitchen” does that, then so much the better. But for someone like me, it means having to watch as perfectly suitable older, smaller homes get ruined with what someone figures is a good kitchen. I’d rather these perfectly good houses have their old, beat up kitchens so I can go in and tear out a wall or two and install a proper kitchen with built in wall ovens, induction cook top and proper, high speed ventilation fans. I cringe at even the thought of buying one of these homes knowing I’d want to tear out the entire kitchen. The waste is something I’d have a hard time bringing myself to doing.

And so I continue to look for a house and that brings about continued pain in an endeavour I would have thought would be easy: an old house with an old kitchen. Sigh.

Of course, that psychic pain is added to being middle aged which brings about much other pain courtesy of general soreness, stiffness, etc. — or as my doctor stated: you’re not 25 anymore (sigh). The general malaise that is middle age is such that I’ve noticed a definite swing in my buddies’ conversations these past 25 years. Twenty-five years ago we’d talk about the hot girls we’d met, were seeing or seen; today, it’s about the hotshot doctor we’re seeing or heard about for this or that condition.

Sigh. Getting old hurts in more ways than one…

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June 2013
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