Food Dictionary: Savory
"I'm going to put some some of my homemade seasoning on this batch of chips, which will give it a savory flavor." --- Paula Deen, talking about her garlic and salt seasoning
"The sauce is so delicious and savory ... mmmm .. it's so good!" --- Giada de Laurentiis, describing her sweet gnocchi with cinnamon butter.
Modern food-speak has recently seen a surge in the usage of the word savory. I have seen and heard it pop up all over the world of food. From boxes of "sweet and savory" snacks to the above quotes by my my favorite food ladies, Paula Deen and Giada de Laurentiis, savory has become the delicious of our time. It must have been kismet that I have been pondering the usage of the term when my food ladies invoke it within the same half-hour on television
But as is par for most words, especially when it comes to marketing and hype, it is being misused. In Paula's quote, the usage is accurate. But in Giada's, it is not. Let's find out why.
Savory; n. An herb of which there are two types, summer and winter, both closely related to the mint family. Savory has an aroma and flavor reminiscent of a cross between thyme and mint. Summer savory is slightly milder than the winter variety but both are strongly flavored and should be used with discretion. Dried savory is available year-round; fresh savory can be found in specialty produce markets. Savory adds a piquant flavor to many foods including PÂTÉS, soups, meat, fish and bean dishes. See also HERBS; HERB AND SPICE CHART. Savory adj. A term describing food that is not sweet but rather piquant and full-flavored.
I have to admit that the noun definition was foreign to me until I read it. I do not normally consider savory to be an herb. You have to go all the way to the bottom of the definition to find the the way food-speak has been using it. A term describing food that is not sweet, but piquant and full-flavored.
That's rather dubious definition. You'd have to define piquant and full-flavored before you could understand savory. Piquant means agreeably pungent or sharp in taste, but full-flavored could be considered a matter of opinion.
The way that media and marketing have been using the term savory is really in reference to the saltiness of the food. Sweet and Savory really means sweet and salty. It's that simple.
Paula's quote is accurate since her seasoning included garlic, a rather pungent and sharp flavor. However, Giada was wrong in saying savory, because the gnocchi was in a sugary sweet sauce. Not that we care what she says, just as long as she's reaching over the countertop to get that pepper grinder.