Directly translated from French as “out of work,” hors d’oeuvers are small dishes designed to be eaten by hand and served before a meal in European cuisine. Historically, hors d’oeuvers were also served between courses, but presently they can even be served with and as part of a meal. The custom itself likely originated in China and made its way to Russia and then through Europe. Hors d’oeuvers are served both cold and hot and tradition dictates that they do not give guests any clue to the main meal.
In the United States, cocktail parties transferred hors d’oeuvres from the formality of the dining room to the mobility of serving trays, these appetizers are also referred to as canapés. In fact, the terms appetizer and hors d’oeuvre are synonymous in American English and often are used to sustain guests through a cocktail hour.
Examples of hors d’oeuvres include bruschetta, charcuterie, deviled eggs, pickles, pigs in blankets, and smoked eggs just to name a few.
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