Appetizers - Transforming from Indulgence to Convenience

December 06th 2018

Appetizers - Transforming from Indulgence to Convenience

Hors D’oeuvres: Transforming from Indulgence to Convenience


Comedian Jack Benny defined an hors d’oeuvre as, “A ham sandwich cut into forty pieces.” The internet is full of appetizer ‘hacks’ like that, but a true hors d’oeuvre can be so much more.

Let’s dig up the roots of this frequently misspelled meal part and look at whether or not there’s still a place for bite-size indulgences on today’s dining tables.

If you’re a foodie and you ever have access to a time machine, make a point of dropping in on at least one wealthy French family for dinner sometime before the 1850s. There you will experience service á la française. As meals go, it was a spectacle seldom seen today.

Prior to diners entering the room, servers carefully positioned all the food on the table, both sweet and savoury. The largest offerings, like roasted game and fowl, were called the dormant and sat in the centre of the table. Surrounding them were smaller dishes called entrées (a 1775 table plan shows delicacies such as “pott’d lampreys” and “snipes in savoury jelly”), and then came the smallest servings of all. In time, these peripheral foods took on the name hors d’oeuvres.

“Hors d’oeuvre” translates to, “outside the main work”, a fitting name based on their position on the table outside the main dishes. Today, we’d be more likely to say it means “appetizers”.

This style of eating was eventually replaced by service á la russe, which more closely approximates a typical Western dinner as we know it that starts with an appetizer, continues with sides and mains, and finishes with a sweet dessert. While the order of service changed, the concept of a starter dish to ease into a meal remained.

If you read our article on meal kits this month, you already know that the many Canadians don’t have time to make a proper meal at home. Increasingly, consumers are turning to snacks and small bites to take the place of a full meal, or to hold them over until they have time to cook something. A 2017 study from Dalhousie University found that 20% of Canadians do all of their eating between typical meal times. In British Columbia, that number soared to 42%.

Often referred to as “snackification”, this trend towards smaller, more frequent eating occasions, or substituting easy-to-make snacks for regular meals, is a largely millennial-driven phenomenon that’s unlikely to slow down anytime soon. The time is still ripe to refine or create and position your hors d’oeuvre product for busy consumers.

Unlike at a Renaissance-era meal, however, your product will not be fresh and waiting on the table. Today’s hors d’oeuvres are more likely to be industrially cooked and frozen, ready for a weary customer to pop in the oven or microwave. Without the proper flavouring expertise, your small bites won’t come through the process with their big flavours intact, and no one wants to taste disappointment at the end of a long day.

It doesn’t matter if your product is Tempeh “Fish” Tacos with Spicy Avocado and Lime Aioli or 2-Bite Deep Dish Gluten-free Pizza Tarts, our flavour developers can help you create your bite-size masterpiece. Plus, our proprietary FlavorCell technology will also ensure every subtle nuance of the flavour experience reaches your end-users’ taste buds. Bon appétit, Canada!