Meaning of Gourmandise

A group of French chefs and intellectuals have sent a petition to the Pope, asking him to reclassify the deadly sin of gluttony.

They argue that the French word for the sin - gourmandise - has changed its meaning over the years and is now used to denote a gourmet, someone who truly appreciates good food and wine, rather than a glutton.

One of the group's founders is the well-known French chef Paul Bocuse, whose late friend - France 's best-known baker, Lionel Poilane - first came up with the idea several years ago.

Mr Bocuse and several others are carrying on the campaign in Poilane's memory, supported by gourmands across France who would like the Vatican to change the word to "gloutonnerie"', a term that suggests much greater greed than gourmandise.

At Paul Bocuse's brightly-painted three Michelin stars restaurant in Lyon , food lovers come to worship at the altar of French cooking.

But according to the Catholic Church, these people may be endangering their immortal souls by committing the fifth of the deadly or cardinal sins.

But Mr Bocuse and his group of connoisseurs argue that these days, gourmandise is a pleasure not a sin.

"You know, being a gourmand is not a sin. Being a glutton is.

"To be a gourmand is one of life's great pleasures. Gourmands don't just appreciate fine food and good wine, but they share it - and thus double the pleasure," Mr Bocuse smiles.

The seven deadly sins were formalised in the 6th Century by Pope Gregory the Great.

Yet today, French priests rarely take confessions of gourmandise.

The parish priest at the Church of the Lamb of God in eastern Paris, Father Alain de la Morandais, believes that gourmands are in fact performing an act of worship or thanksgiving to God as they appreciate their food.

"I am a doctor of moral theology, and I think the only real sins are ones of excess. Addiction - for example to drink or to drugs or to cigarettes, that is a sin.

"But these days," he tells me, "the French word gourmandise is understood to mean a gourmet - and a gourmet is someone who savours, who appreciates good food, good wine, and all the flavours that God created."