Dessert is a course that typically
comes at the end of a dinner, usually consisting of sweet food but
sometimes of a strongly flavored one, such as some cheeses. The word
comes from the Old French desservir, meaning "to clear the table".
Dessert is most commonly used in Hiberno-English, American English,
Canadian English, Australian English and in French.
or afters would be more typical in other variants of Commonwealth
English for this course. According to Debrett's, 'pudding' is the
proper term, 'dessert' is only to be used if the course consists of
fruit, and 'sweet' is colloquial.
Dessert as a standard part of a
Western meal is a relatively recent development. Before the 19th-century
rise of the middle class, and the mechanization of the sugar industry,
sweets were a privilege of the aristocracy, or a rare holiday treat. As
sugar became cheaper and more readily available, the development and
popularity of desserts spread accordingly.
Some cultures do not have a
separate final sweet course but mix sweet and savoury dishes throughout
the meal as in Chinese cuisine, or reserve elaborate dessert concoctions
for special occasions. Often, the dessert is seen as a separate meal or
snack rather than a course, and may be eaten some time after the meal (usually
in less formal settings). Some restaurants specialize in dessert.