Luxury foods

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A cup of espresso

Beverages in the strict sense are foods that primarily because of their non- nutritional value and saturation are consumed, but because of its taste and its stimulating or intoxicating effect.

To the subject

Often other psychoactive substances that (due to lack of nutritional value) are not foods (for example tobacco products ) are counted as luxury foods. In the specialist literature, the term is also occasionally used for sugar and other spices . In the German dictionary of the Brothers Grimm , luxury foods are defined as food that is consumed less for nutrition than for enjoyment . The distinction between food and luxury foods is scientifically and especially not legally defined. There are only legal provisions for the sale of alcohol and tobacco.

“The term luxury food is a specifically German-language term. In English it comes closest to the collective term luxury food ; in French one would speak of excitants or stimulants . Each of the terms mentioned puts a very specific aspect of luxury items and their consumption in the foreground. The German term refers primarily to the socio-cultural component […], the English to the socio-economic and the French to the pharmacological-physiological. "

- according to Hengartner

The specialist authors Hengartner / Merki describe luxury foods as foods that, depending on the subjective assessment and sociocultural context, are understood as food as well as addictive or medicinal products.

Socio Economically belonged beverage to the modern era of the luxury goods and were status symbols . The French terms refer to the pharmacological effects of some luxury foods such as alcohol , coffee and tea .

“It is precisely the delimitation between luxury and addictive substances or (criminalized) drugs , which is constantly being negotiated , an impressive illustration of the gap between the chemical-physiological properties of these substances on the one hand and their cultural evaluation on the other. So not only the concept of enjoyment is constructed socio-culturally, but also that of 'addiction'. "

- Merki

According to Hengartner / Merki, the definition of terms such as pleasure, luxury foods and intoxicants is influenced both culturally and ideologically and religiously and differs in different historical epochs as well as between different social groups and associations. For example, tobacco has been considered an addictive substance in Europe since the 1950s, but was previously only viewed as a stimulant and even as a medicine for centuries. Alcohol has long been considered a drug in Europe . Beer as "liquid bread" had until the very recent past the status of an important food alongside bread .


Most luxury foods have an assumed or actually stimulating or calming effect. This is mainly based on alkaloids , which are formed by the original plants to ward off predators . Some luxury foods can lead to addictions . They often have significant social significance, especially when consumed with other people.


  • Gerd Hamann: Anyone who smokes gets beaten! History of luxury foods. Frankfurt am Main 1996.
  • Thomas Hengartner , Christoph Maria Merki (ed.): Luxury foods - A cultural history manual. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt / New York 1999, ISBN 3-593-36337-2 ; also (under the title Luxury Foods. Eine Kulturgeschichte. ) Insel, Frankfurt am Main / Leipzig 2001. ISBN 3-458-34461-6 .
  • Annerose Menninger: Enjoyment in the face of cultural change. Stuttgart (Steiner) 2008.
  • Roman Sandgruber : Bittersweet pleasures. Cultural history of luxury foods. Vienna / Cologne / Graz 1986.
  • Roman Sandgruber, Harry Kühnel (Ed.): Enjoyment & Art. Coffee, tea, chocolate, tobacco, cola. Innsbruck 1994.
  • Wolfgang Schivelbusch : Paradise, taste and reason. The history of luxury foods. Hanser, Munich / Vienna 1980, ISBN 3-446-12984-7 . Paperback: Fischer-TB 4413, Frankfurt am Main 1990 and 1992, ISBN 3-596-24413-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: luxury foods  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. luxury items. In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm (Hrsg.): German dictionary . tape 5 : Gefoppe – Drifts - (IV, 1st section, part 2). S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1897, Sp. 3524-3526 ( ).
  2. Thomas Hengartner, Christoph Maria Merki: Luxury foods. A handbook on cultural history. 1999, p. 9.
  3. ^ A b c Thomas Hengartner, Christoph Maria Merki: Luxury foods. A handbook on cultural history. 1999, p. 11.
  4. Thomas Hengartner, Christoph Maria Merki: Luxury foods. A handbook on cultural history. 1999, p. 13.