Appetizer boards

A follow-up to my 10/20/22 posting “The Funny Aperitif Board”, with its entertaining word confusion between appetizer and aperitif — but now getting serious about the two categories involved in the compound appetizer board:

the foodstuff category to which appetizers belong (call it SMALL-START-FOOD);

and the implement category to which food-service boards and platters belong (call it FOOD-SERVER-THING)

I’ll put off the funny part — the (intentionally) phallic appearance of the appetizer board in question — for a third posting in this series, taking off from my 9/11/22 posting “Plush life” (with its distinction between four modes of phallicity). But before we go on to ransack the modern English lexicon, let’s stop to appreciate the inspiration for all of this, the Grassooze appetizer board, laden with meal-preliminary foodstuffs:

(#1) From the previous posting: in the ad, “Funny Aperitif Board on sale for $24.99”

(#2) From a later Facebook ad, a close-up of the board, also showing some accompanying food-service dishes and bowls

(Note: the names of categories, in all-caps English words, were chosen for their mnemonic value, but they’re really just arbitrary labels; what’s important is the conditions that determine the membership of the categories, and these typically will resist simple formulations in the ordinary vocabulary of actual languages.)

The lexical field of appetizers. Beginning with the erroneous item aperitif and the appropriate item appetizer that’s quite close to it in both meaning and pronunciation, from NOAD:

noun aperitif: an alcoholic drink taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite.

noun appetizer: a small dish of food or a drink taken before a meal or the main course of a meal to stimulate one’s appetite.

Usage note. I believe that appetizer is now primarily North American and that it is primarily used for food rather than drink, but historically it was used in both BrE and AmE, and in OED2’s earliest cite, it covered drink as well as food:

Anything taken to create appetite or relish for food; a whet or stimulant to appetite. [in British writer Duncan Macdonald’s British Columbia and Vancouver’s Island (1862), The tiny cup full of a species of Chinese liquor, by way of an appetiser.]

Now: alternatives to appetizer in the category SMALL-START-FOOD, all from NOAD:

noun starter: … 3 mainly British the first course of a meal; an appetizer.

noun meze: in the Mediterranean, an appetizer: sit down to a Cyprus meze and a glass of wine.

noun hors d’oeuvre: a small savory dish, typically one served as an appetizer at the beginning of a meal: [as modifier]: a wine and hors d’oeuvre reception.

noun antipasto: (in Italian cooking) an appetizer typically consisting of olives, anchovies, cheeses, and meats.

noun tapas: small Spanish savory dishes, typically served with drinks at a bar.

canapé: 1 a small piece of bread or pastry with a savory topping, often served with drinks at a reception or formal party: smoked-salmon canapés. …

noun crudités: assorted raw vegetables served as an hors d’oeuvre, typically with a sauce into which they may be dipped.

This lexical field shades, quite visibly above, into the category BAR-FOOD (covering a variety of North American bar snacks, from peanuts and little pretzels through chicken wings and jalapeño poppers); and also shades into the category SIDE-DISHES; from NOAD:

noun side: … 6 [a] [as modifier] subsidiary to or less important than something: a side dish of fresh vegetables. [b] mainly North American a dish served as subsidiary to the main one: sides of German potato salad and red cabbage.

In the midst of this field is the noun meze, which is highly variable in its usage, from one sociocultural (and regional) context to another. From earlier postings on this blog:

— from my 10/13/13 posting “Small dishes”:

From Wikipedia:

Meze or mezze … is a selection of small dishes served in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Balkans as breakfast, lunch or even dinner, with or without drinks. In Levantine cuisines, in the Caucasus region, and in parts of Balkans, meze is served at the beginning of all large-scale meals.

… Meze go everywhere from a side dish or two to an assortment of choices for an entire meal.

… Meze then fall into the rich world of “small dishes” in many cultures: appetizers, snacks, hors d’oeuvres, tapas, zakuski, dim sum. The function (and of course the instantiation) of small dishes varies from culture to culture.

— and then in my 4/24/22 posting “The fruitcake and the meze”, the NOAD definition and three illustrations showing not only the variety of foodstuffs in different mezes, but also the variety of the variety of food-service implements in which they are served (including, in the first, a wooden board):

(#3) A Greek meze platter (so named in the source): a wooden board or tray with dishes for the spreadable foodstuffs

(#4) Lebanese meze, presented in separate plates, bowls, or dishes

(#5) Turkish meze: a huge platter with many little dishes or bowls on it

Which leads us right into …

The lexical field of food-service implements, as used for serving appetizers. The largely transparent compounds appetizer board and appetizer platter aren’t in the OED3 text (nor of course are appetizer plate,  appetizer tray, appetizer dish, or appetizer bowl).

Three relevant dictionary entries.

— from OED3 (June 2006) on the noun platter:

1. a. Originally: a large, flat dish or plate, esp. for food. Later also: the quantity contained on a platter; a plateful; (chiefly North American, usually with modifier denoting the type of food being served) a main dish with accompaniments, served on a platter [2003 Albuquerque NM newspaper cite referring to the Mexican steak platter at a restaurant comprising a 6-oz sirloin steak, chile rellenos with green chile sauce, a red chile cheese enchilada, and beans and rice)]. …

Which then serves as the head element in the the compound noun appetizer platter ‘platter for (serving) appetizers’.

— from NOAD on the noun board, giving its most general sense in [a]:

… 2 [a] a thin, flat piece of wood or other stiff material used for various purposes. [b] a vertical surface on which to write or pin notices: teachers talk and write on the board. [c] a horizontal surface on which to cut things, play games, or perform other activities: Pete set the pieces out on the board. …

— then from OED3 (Sept. 2016) on the compound noun cheese board:

2. [a] A board on which cheese is served; [b] a selection of cheeses served alone or as part of a meal. [AZ: or [c] the combination of the two]
— 1916 Country Life in Amer. Dec. 108/2 For the hostess who takes pride in the appointments of the midnight supper there is a dainty cheese-board and serving knife of sterling silver. [a]
— 1937 Life 22 Nov. 121/2 Cheese board in maple, with the edge in simulated walnut. [a]
— 1963 V. Canning Limbo Line xiv. 191 They .. asked the girl to bring the cheese board, saying they wanted to try some local cheeses. [c]
— 1971 Fortnight 11 June 21/2 The cheese board had only the standard mass produced, and mostly foil wrapped specs. [b or c]
— 1996 P. Gregory Perfectly Correct (1997) 242 There was home-baked bread in the bin and a substantial cheese board. [b or c]
— 2010 Irish Times 7 Aug. d23/2 My cheese board has some nice ripe specimens. [b or c]

Once this conventional sense of cheese board was established, it fixed a specialized sense of the head noun board ‘board on which food is served’, so that we then get the compound noun appetizer board ‘board on which appetizers are served’. Which is where we came in, at the top of this posting.

3 Responses to “Appetizer boards”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I note that there is a somewhat annoying (to me, anyway) tendency in American restaurants to serve “appetizers” in such large portions as to rather depress, rather than stimulate, the appetite.

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    For me, there’s a distinction between appetizer and hors d’oeuvre: The former is the first course of a meal, served at the dinner table, while the latter is “finger food” often accompanied by pre-meal cocktails, and not (pr not necessarily) consumed at the same table as the meal it precedes.

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