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The charcuterie board is making a big come back! More and more restaurants have charcuteries as an option, usually as a shared appetizer. It’s also been a long time favorite in wine bars. It’s an easy way to serve a variety of favorite finger foods.

But what exactly is a charcuterie board, and where did it come from? A charcuterie board commonly refers to a plate, or preferably a wood  board, covered with cold cuts, cheeses, crackers, sometime olives, cornichon, nuts, and really any kind of finger food. This is what you would get in most places if you order a charcuterie board.

A true charcuterie board should technically only be cold meats. The word charcuterie comes from the French word for what we commonly refer as deli meats. Anything from sausages, ham, pâté, or any type of cooked and smoked cold meats.  The origins of charcuterie goes back to the Gaul and Frankish regions of Europe, primarily in what is today France. By the middle ages, charcuterie became a prominent trade with “charcutier” opening their “charcuterie” shops. Very little has changed today, in the fundamentals of turning pork into deli meats, and pairing them on wood board with cheeses and with cornichon. The cornichon is a baby pickle, that’s more vinegary than sweet, compared to its American counterpart. It’s been one of the most common side on a charcuterie board.

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The charcuterie board has always been a popular food option in Europe. In Spain, it has morphed and inspired many styles of tapas. In the US, it has had its place in wine bars and more fancy restaurants, and as a less common appetizer for the middle class. When the food culture in the US veered towards fast foods and chains, it became a much rarer sight.

With a new revolution in food culture, that started with more organic choices, and started to steer people into healthier choices, it started to bring people back to the more traditional ways of doing food. With many health experts pointing out problems with our diet, and pointing out the much better state of health with many of our good old friends in several areas in Europe, where obesity is nearly non-existent and people live much longer, people here have started to seek better food habits. While cold meats are by no means super food, or even considered healthy food. It is more about the way you eat, not about how much of a “super food” is on your plate. The charcuterie board is just a way to put more variety in your diet, and eating more different things in smaller quantities. It’s about nibbling on not just meat, but cheese, maybe some fruits like grapes, raw veggies, and enjoying it with a glass of wine. Eating well is not always about eating “super foods”, it’s also about eating quality, variety, and eating in a way that’s simply more enjoyable.

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