The word "appetizer" was invented in New Orleans. In the 1950s, the National Restaurant Association, trying to popularize the eating of a course before the salad and entree, held a contest to find an English words that would resonate with Americans better than the French hors d'oeuvre. ("Tapas" was truly unknown in this country at that time.)
The winner of the contest as Roy Alciatore, proprietor of Antoine's, and grandson of Antoine. It apparently was the perfect word for a first course, because it's universal now. (Except, ironically, at Antoine's, whose menu would be entirely in French for many more decades.)
Appetizers have been on a major upswing since the turn of the century. They were already an essential part of the fine dining experience--indeed, in a lot of restaurants, they were better than the entrees. But an increasing number of dining establishments are building menus almost entirely of appetizers lately. (Most are using the new expression "small plates.")
We're doing that at home a lot, too. I love a great first course--so much that I fill the table with them. I have a lot of recipes for them here. Some are hard to categorize (is crabmeat au gratin and appetizer or an entree?), so if you can't find the one you want in the lists, check the entrees.
Here are the categories.
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