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Jul 16, 2009 08:39 AM

the word decadent applying to food

When did the word decadent start applying to food? The official defintions are:

A person who has fallen into a decadent state (morally or artistically)
Nouns denoting people

Hypernyms ("decadent" is a kind of...):

bad person (a person who does harm to others)

DECADENT (adjective)

Marked by excessive self-indulgence and moral decay



Context examples:

a decadent life of excessive money and no sense of responsibility / a group of effete self-professed intellectuals


indulgent (characterized by or given to yielding to the wishes of someone)

It seems like a negative comment rather than a positive one

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  1. Food can certainly be indulgent, which is what "decadent" connotes in relation to food. It's the same concept as calling chocolate "sinful."

    4 Replies
    1. re: JungMann

      i guess I am giving in to my needs with a decadent dessert?

      1. re: koshergourmetmart

        Here is another definition:

        From the Miriam Webster Online dictionary of the word decadent:
        3 : characterized by or appealing to self-indulgence <decadent pleasures>

        So I guess you are giving into your needs with a decadent dessert ;-)

        1. re: danhole

          Morally sinful food you lust for! Morally sinful to make a dessert so outrageous, so unhealthy and so tempting?

          1. re: Scargod

            "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than die with the saints...the sinners are much more fun..." (thank you Billy Joel)

            I'll have what he's having. See, friends like you are getting me into trouble but I'm enjoying every bite. MOO.

    2. What would you call my ravioli made of Alba Quercus Reserve ham, foie gras, and Caciocavallo Podolico cheese; with a sauce of more Caciocavallo Podolico, 1787 Sauterne from Château Yquem, a large pinch of saffron, and a touch of reduced Tieguanyin tea, topped with Périgord truffle?

      5 Replies
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Nothing... I'm speechless and there's drool dripping off my chin.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            You stole that from the Betty Crocker Bisquick book didn't you? :-)

            1. re: billieboy

              There is always someone who brings out the truth! *^%&*(

            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

              I'm calling it dinner at your house. Please advise the wine you'd like us to bring! Holey moley.

            3. I don't care about references to something being "decadent", "sinful" etc. I don't like or think it's funny or "cool" to characterize a well prepared food item as "addictive like crack" how would someone know unless they are a "crackhead"? Sorry this term just doesn't fit and isn't funny!

              18 Replies
              1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                I refer to Fancy Feast as crack for cats. My sincere apologies to any "crackheads" I may have offended! ;) But Fancy Feast IS a magic vehicle for medicine for my cat takes 3x a day. I guess those of us who wouldn't recognize crack if it stared us in the face ought to just say it something is sooooooooooooooooooo addictive. But crack sounds edgier.

                Others get bent of shape when people say food is "naughty" or that you're being "naughty" when you're eating certain foods. I say being naughty is fun--but I prefer how my clothes fit when I'm "behaving" better (or to be dull, being careful about my caloric intake).

                Decadent desserts--bring 'em on! I'll walk 'em off and eat yogurt as penance later on!

                1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                  I don't see anything wrong or inappropriate about the terms decadent or sinful. Some people can sit and eat ice cream till the whole container is gone or eat a cake pan of brownies in one sitting. How about a whole bag of chips or one beer after another, till they're all gone? And these and others are not addictive, like drinking Cokes for the sugar and caffeine? No chocoholics out there? There's no "sinning" involved in gluttony, lack of discipline or loss of control?

                  Surely part of a food being labeled "decadent" is the potential harm it could do if consumed in excess. Desserts called "Death by Chocolate"?
                  Do I have to be something before I can know about it? I sure hope not! How about the sayings like, "If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck... or, "I can see by your outfit that you are a cowboy".
                  I think I can know decadent food without being overweight or without having a bad diet.
                  Metaphors are commonplace in communicating meanings. Perhaps it is not PC to use drug references for you. Perhaps we should use phrases like, "He was all over that dessert, like a duck on a June bug" or "that broad had roller heels for that dessert tray!"?

                  1. re: Scargod

                    Those were NOT roller heels...

                    Anyway, I believe decadence can be an appropriate word when describing food/eating. I recently made chowser's "Man-Catcher" brownies. One batch calls for 3 sticks of butter, 6 eggs, and 4 c sugar (2 of those brown). They are delicious, rich, fattening, and artery-clogging and I have eaten more than my share. If this isn't decadent, what is? And what's wrong with that once in a while?

                    1. re: fern

                      Well, shoot, it's EASY to "catch" a man when he's WEIGHED DOWN like that. ;) Problem is, you have to keep feeding him. JK, JK!!!

                      Speaking of words that don't work (I agree with you guys that "decadent" DOES work beautifully, btw), I'm watching Food Network and this woman just said, "It SMELLS like a million dollars!" Um, yeah? I get LOOKS like a million dollars, but SMELLS like it just cracked us up.

                      1. re: kattyeyes

                        He's downright hog-tied, isn't he? And thanks to Chowhound, I just keep those tasty morsels coming. The man is going nowhere. ;)

                        Smells like a million, eh? Maybe I don't miss cable. :)

                    2. re: Scargod

                      makes me happy to be atheist, don't have to worry about sin and can eat as much chocolate as I see fit

                      1. re: babette feasts

                        I am agnostic. To me sin is personal (we have our own definitions), and in some instances it is important to me. Moderation in eating is good. Then I can do more little sins, like eating crispy duck, foie gras or eating dessert once in a while.

                        1. re: Scargod

                          Agnostic also and dessert is less fattening when shared with a friend (thank god, or whoever!). HA HA!

                          1. re: Scargod

                            I don't think food is sinful, and applying the term to food, especially desserts, really irks me. I'm a pastry chef, so what am I, the devil? Decadent, yes, but not sinful. Now gluttony can certainly be taken to an unhealthy extreme, but two ounces of chocolate once a week - i.e. a particularly intense restaurant dessert - may be decadent or indulgent but it is neither sinful nor gluttonous in my book. My desserts are neither 'wicked' nor designed to kill you, but ideally bring a few moments of joy in this life that needs more of it.

                            1. re: babette feasts

                              Yes, you are the Devil's Advocate!
                              As I said, I have MY definitions for some sins which might mesh well with your definitions of decadence. I like my one cup of strong coffee each morning and a scotch in the evening. I love good chocolate, though rarely have it around.
                              I have my hot button words, too, like, "all you can eat buffet". I'd much rather have one of your desserts!
                              You should post some pictures of your desserts! Your avitar is a tease and hardly satisfying. From what little I can make out, it looks like a work of art.

                              1. re: babette feasts

                                An example of how dessert can be sinful:
                                Pope Leo X (from the de' Medici family; one of Michaelangelo's great patrons) is rumored to have had a naked, prepubescent boy, entirely covered in gold paint, pop out of a cake at a feast celebrating his election to the papacy. The boy died shortly thereafter due to toxins in the paint.

                          2. re: Scargod

                            reading your comment made me think about the time my mother in law saw my eight year old boy eat one slice of nice ham (without any bread) and she called that a "decadent behaviour". We were all having breakfast at the table and he ate the same things we did: an egg and ham sandwich. However, after eating his sadwiched he asked me if he could have just one slice of that nice ham, to which I agreed. Trying to comply with "etiquete", he took the ham nicely with a fork, folded it with his silverware and started eating it with fork and knife (which I personally find exagerating because he could have eating it with his hands). When my mother in law saw him eating the ham, she right away said to my husband that the kid was being "decadent" (in a negative way) by eating the ham without bread. Now I would like to ask you and the rest of the Chow gang wether you think its decadent for an eigh year old to try a piece of ham without turning it into a sandwich, something "decadent", especially when he has already eating a nutritious meal in the style and way my husbands family finds "proper". (btw, he is not overweight).

                            I think maybe it is the difference in cultures. I come from a latinamerican country while my husbands family come from The Netherlands. Maybe in the Netherlands think that eating ham without bread is decadent...? maybe some one of you can help me find the reason for such way of thinking. Thank you

                            1. re: Reginabonita

                              Ha! What a lovely MIL.

                              One of my favorite "dinners" as a kind was "cheese without bread". Gouda, a thick slice. Who needs bread, I say? Thankfully, my dad wasn't a jerk about it.

                              1. re: Reginabonita

                                Not decadent. (I'm a MIL and I would never say that. In fact I find anything of any sort my grandchild does is adorable. Look--he walks! Look--he eats! Look--he eats ham with his hands. Sigh, he's so cute.) He asked for the ham, he ate with a fork using the best manners he knew, and so what's the problem MIL? But, I'm not from Netherlands, either.

                                I wouldn't worry about this too much. It is too bad MIL didn't keep her opinion to herself. You are not at fault.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                LOL, good point. I shouldn't feel so bad about my Fancy Feast comment then! ;)

                            2. If eating shark fin soup is not prima facie evidence of moral decay, then the word 'decadent' should be purged from our lexicon.

                              1. Recommended reading: Benjamin Franklin talking to his gout:

                                or pairing foie gras and sauternes: too much at once! unless in small portions.

                                There are the decadent books (yes, I've read them all

                                which also include a turduken, in which the only piece eaten is the olive.

                                So yes, it can be taken to extremes. But indulged in occasionally? The negativity makes it oh so succulent and more appealing.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Caralien

                                  Now, see, there's a word I DON'T like about food 'cause it starts with "SUCK!" :) Ironic. Like when people would say "bad" for "good!" HA HA.

                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                    all food is good and innocent (per Sam Fujisaka in a defense for white trash food monnikers being inane).

                                    Food=good. Pleasure=good

                                    What's the problem?

                                    (being realistic, yes, I've gained weight in my 30s, but who cares? I enjoy food and am less neurotic). Cheers to good food and wine.

                                    1. re: Caralien

                                      The "problem" is there can be such thing as too much of a good thing. I, for one, would like to continue to fit in my current clothes and not "graduate" to a new size, thank you--thus my references to "naughty" and "behaving." The food is always good. I know both how to cook it/bake it and where to find it out. That is not a problem. But restraint sometimes is. Oh, well!

                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                        Kattyeyes--I'm with you. I won't buy anything over a size 4 and use my clothing as a guage as whether I've been overindulging!

                                    2. re: kattyeyes

                                      "Suck" is one of my favorite words :)