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History of the Word Appetizer

The ancient Greeks might have been enjoying sturgeon, cockles, sea urchins and garlic a couple of thousand years ago and, whereas our concept of tasty appetizers has altered somewhat, appetizers are still served today all over the world. A lot of the ancient Greeks actually complained when appetizers became popular, saying that the variety offered did not make up for leaving the diner hungry!

Ancient Roman Appetizer Traditions

The ancient Romans had quite an array of appetizer recipes, including egg-based dishes and cooked eggs, salads, snails, salted fish, vegetable dishes, truffles, and mushrooms. Olives, sausages, shellfish and herbed cheese were also served.

Some Roman appetizer recipes were quite complicated and, today, these casseroles and fricassees would be considered complete meals, rather than appetizers. Olives were very popular in Roman times and these were either served whole or ground into a tapenade. Light dishes like fish, meatballs, small fish and birds and dormice often appeared on the Roman appetizer table, as did heavier ones like roast pork, rabbit, or sow’s udder.

This kind of dining can be compared to the history of appetizers in Russia, where the “zakuski” ceremony has been famed since the 1800s. This layout of appetizers was either served buffet-style or around a dining table.

The menu would include at least one fish appetizer, at least one meat appetizer, at least one salad or vegetable appetizer and at least one egg appetizer, as well as marinated or salt-picked fruits, vegetables or mushrooms, and condiments including horseradish, freshly ground pepper and mustard. Aperitifs would also be served.

What is an Aperitif?

Aperitifs are mean to aid digestion and an aperitif is usually an alcoholic liquid appetizer. Examples of aperitifs include Campari, sherry, spiced wine and vermouth. In Roman times, ther aperitif was poured into a communal drinking bowl and passed around the guests to encourage cordiality. Today we still serve aperitifs but these are usually accompanied by some nibbles – perhaps nuts or olives.

Modern Appetizer Trends

In recent times, appetizers have changed considerably. In fact, over the past ten or twenty years we are getting more familiar with exotic appetizers. Gone are the days when shrimp cocktail, chicken salad and cheese on sticks were the only appetizers on offer.

These days you are as likely to be offered exotic dishes like chicken satay, egg rolls with a sweet chili dipping sauce or savory Indian pastries. Twenty years ago, we might have been suspicious of international appetizer recipes but today most people delight in trying out new foods and, of course, the ingredients are available nowadays too.

Appetizers to Touch the Heart

Appetizer recipes are popular all over the world and sitting at the table to be faced immediately with a main course would seem wrong somehow. Whether you are eating hot appetizers, cold appetizers recipes, seafood appetizers or something else, a nicely presented appetizer is the most wonderful way to start dinner.

Serving appetizers shows your guests that you care about their enjoyment and you want to make sure they are not too hungry when the entree arrives. Appetizers can be hot, chilled, or warm and there are literally thousands of different ones to choose from.

In China, appetizers are called “dim sum” and this translates into “touch the heart” which is something that all good appetizers do.


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