( Morella Esculenta)
Matt Trella lives in Chicago, he is a hobbyist cook, amateur mycologist and food enthusiast.
His wife Eva is an Esthetician she shares and inspires Matt's passions
The goal of this project is to share our favorite and unusual recipes with general public,
and have fun doing it.
Everything here is open to suggestions and changes.
Lets have fun!
Why Americans say Entrée when everyone else says Main.
Well, I went and did some more research on the great entrée question.
Instead of an American error (my original hypothesis), it looks more like a case of simple reasonable
linguistic divergence based on the changing nature of menus over the last century.
First of all, the big (Collins-Robert) dictionary added nothing much, except to say that the translation of
`entrée'<BrE> to French is `entrée', and vice versa, whereas the translation of `main' <BrE> to French is `plat
principal' (which is what I thought I remembered, but which wasn't included in the little dictionary, which, you
will recall, said `plat de résistance'). Neither dictionary gave a translation from the American `entrée' to
French, but we can assume that it would be `plat principal'.
However: The traditional French menu, (according to Larousse, and to an 1895 American cookbook I own)
went something like:
# hors d'oeuvres or/and fish
# entrée (or entrées) [i.e. The third course, as Larousse points out, but not the last, as a the <AmE> usage
# final course (perhaps)
What I reckon happened, was that as the necessity of the main (rôti == roast (usually fowl in France)) course
waned (more slowly, I suspect, in NZ, OZ and Britain than in the US), the entrée (which can cover a variety of
dishes which would be considered mains now (but then, so would some of the hors d'oeuvres and final
courses)) moved towards the beginning of the meal in <BrE>, <NZE> <AusE> and <Fr>, and towards the end
of the (truncated) mean in <AmE>.
Since a modern (formal) (western of course, Chinese menus put soup last, for example) menu goes
something more like:
# hors d'oeuvres
# soup or entrée
# dessert and cheese (or cheese and dessert if you are French)
the English usage bears more resemblance to the traditional one, in terms of the formal/social/ritual aspects
of hosting a dinner, whereas, since modern mains are rarely roasts, the American usage bears more
resemblance to the food which was traditionally served for this course. Since the American cookbook I
referred to (The Table, (2nd ed) 1895) followed the formal, old fashioned, French usage, it is clear that the
divergence happened after that date. Michael (whose mind is now at rest on this matter, unless further
culinary archeology by others upsets this theory). ------- OK. Here is what the 1989 edition of the Oxford
English Dictionary (the definition of the British English lexicon) has to say:
`Entrée' - [...] 2. Cookery. A `made dish', served between the dish and the joint. Also attrib., as entrée dish
(Littré explains entrées as `mets qui se servent au commencement du repas' [dishes which are served at the
start of a meal]).
And here is what Robert [a multi volume French (not French-English) dictionary, though not as large as the
OED] has to say:
entrée n.f. (XIIe s.; de entrer) - Specialt. Cuis. Mets qui se sert a l'entrée, au commencement du répas, après
de pôtage ou après les hors-d'oeuvre. `l'entrée précede le rôti. On distingue les entrées de boucherie (boeuf,
veau, mouton), de porc, de volailles et de gibier, de poisson, les entrées froides (pâtes froides, viandes
froides ...), des entrées chaudes de four (vol-au-vent, bouchées, timbales, souffles...). Repas d'apparat à
deux, trois entrées.'
entrée, noun, feminine (XII century; from `to enter') - Cookery. Dishes which are served `at the entrée', at the
beginning of a meal, after soup, or after the hors-d'oeuvre. `The entrée precedes the roast. We distinguish
between entrées of butchered meat (*1) (beef, veal, mutton), pork, fowl and game, fish, cold entrées (cold
pates, cold meats [cold cuts in <AmE>], hot oven-prepared entrées (vol-au-vents, savouries(*2), timbales,
soufflés). A ceremonial dinner with two or three entrées'.
*1 French distinguishes between classes of meats in a slightly different way than English. In particular, there
are special butchers for pork products (and horse, although that is not relevant here)).
*2 Literally `mouthfuls', my guess is that savouries is the right translation. I don't know what Americans call
[...] The plates translate into large (main course at dinner), medium (breakfast, luncheon, fish and another
early course whose name, entrée, has been wickedly stolen by restaurants to refer to the main course; as
well as, on the small side of medium, salad, dessert) and small (bread and butter, fruit, tea). [...]
amendments and expansions welcome
Eva and Matt Trella