So I've tried gourmet grilled cheese, gourmet cupcakes and a variety of gourmet food truck lunches over the past month and it's left me wondering what we actually mean when we say something is gourmet. It used to conjure up images of rare and exotic ingredients combined with some sort of alchemy to create something truly extraordinary. Now you can get your gourmet ingredients at the grocery store. (Tomatoes being the one truly gourmet item if you find any that actually taste like tomatoes and not like cardboard.)

With an increased availability of a wider variety of raw ingredients from other countries and cultures, what makes something gourmet? Is it still reserved for those items that are truly rare and exotic, like truffles? Can it really be applied to a grilled cheese sandwich if it's made from brie if you can now buy brie at the Wal-Mart? Or has it simply become another marketing term that really no longer has any meaning?

The standard dictionary definition still alludes to exotic ingredients and skillful preparation. That being said, here is this week's gourmet cupcake from


- made from scratch with real sugar, real butter and real vanilla. Don't get me wrong - it's a damn good cupcake and I throw dietary caution to the wind every Friday for one of these. I can't help but get the feeling that what makes these gourmet is the fact that they are skillfully  made from scratch with real raw ingredients. As Americans in general (if not me in particular) are willing to get more and more of their meals out of boxes, cans and drive-through windows and accept food that has been reheated in a microwave as part of a sit-down restaurant experience, maybe actual cooking is becoming a lost and rare art, exotic, alchemic, and gourmet.

This week's gourmet experience