heavy or rich?

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WritingAPuppy

Senior Member
canada mandarin
Hi. A coworker described her steak dinner with prawns as "rich". And now I am wondering the difference between "heavy" and "rich".

Are they pretty much same when referring to food, or is there a subtle difference? Here's my take: "heavy" means there's a lot of fat, grease or proteins that are difficult/take a long time to digest, whereas "rich" means the meal is rich in nutritious value...

Am I correct in my thinking? Thanks.
 
  • Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Hi. A coworker described her steak dinner with prawns as "rich". And now I am wondering the difference between "heavy" and "rich".

    Are they pretty much same when referring to food, or is there a subtle difference? Here's my take: "heavy" means there's a lot of fat, grease or proteins that are difficult/take a long time to digest, whereas "rich" means the meal is rich in nutritious value...

    Am I correct in my thinking? Thanks.
    You're right about "heavy" but not about "rich". "Rich" is often used to describe a decadent dessert ie. Devil's Food Cake or fudge brownies. They are a combination of slightly heavy but also sweet. It's unlikely that someone would want to eat a whole pan of fudge brownies. In contrast, something like chocolate mousse would be considered "rich" simply because of the sweet, smooth quality, even though it is a "light" dessert (not "heavy").

    Shellfish is often described as "rich" because eating too many of them leaves one with a feeling similar to all those fudge brownies - they can almost be cloying even though they are not "heavy".
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I wonder is this just personal or is there a consensus?

    Rich is likely to be thick, creamy, fatty, perhaps sweet.

    Heavy may be rich, but is also likely to include a lot of pastry, potato, pasta, cereal.

    Excuse me while I run off to make a bacon and honey sandwich.
     

    nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    To me:

    Rich = very flavoursome, strong flavour, usually sweet, but not always.

    Heavy = Dense foods that take a while to digest e.g. meat, lentils. As opposed to a light meal such as a salad.
     

    nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    The salad would still be salad.

    The dressing would be creamy.

    If the dressing were creamy and full of complex flavours, it would be rich.

    If the dressing weren't creamy, but still full of complex flavours, it would be rich.
     

    ShinyDiscoBall

    New Member
    French and Brazilian Portuguese
    I think rich is any food that can make you sick to your stomach when you have more than a small portion of it, and that can vary according to one's individual taste. I, for one, find chocolate rich: I feel full and sick if I have more than one or two small pieces.

    Am I daydreaming? :-D
     

    nzfauna

    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    That supposition is indeed correct SBD :) I am sometimes the same with Pavlova (very sugary), and chocolate mousse (sweet and creamy, but you wouldn't call it "heavy").
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    According to Webster's 3rd International:

    Rich foods: containing a pronounced compliment of fat or fatty substances.

    According to thefreedictionary.com:

    rich - containing plenty of fat, or eggs, or sugar; "rich desserts"; "they kept gorging on rich foods"

    I believe that the freedictionary definition is the more commonly understood meaning.
     

    xebonyx

    Senior Member
    TR/AR/EN
    I would not call a steak "rich", ha. I agree with what everyone else says--it almost always applies to desserts, pastries, etc.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    I support the Websters definition.

    A steak would not be called rich, but it could well have a very rich sauce with it.
    Béarnaise, a sauce made with eggs and butter, is often served with steak.
     

    xebonyx

    Senior Member
    TR/AR/EN
    Good point. We tend to say a meal is rich, regarding the element(s) that turn out to be most savory to us/the individual. But I still don't think anyone would call a steak "rich". That reference sounds very awkward to me.
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I would not call a steak "rich", ha. I agree with what everyone else says--it almost always applies to desserts, pastries, etc.
    But I would call prawns "rich". Much as I like them, I get that cloying, sickly-sweet sensation from them if I eat too many, in exactly the same way that I would if I ate too many fudge brownies.
     

    xebonyx

    Senior Member
    TR/AR/EN
    But I would call prawns "rich". Much as I like them, I get that cloying, sickly-sweet sensation from them if I eat too many, in exactly the same way that I would if I ate too many fudge brownies.
    Yeah, after I thought about it (that's why I posted "we tend to label things rich due to the elements of the meal" which ranges from sauces to added flavors, etc.), but I guess we can conclude that one's deduction of what's rich or not is a matter of one's sensitivity to or perception of the flavor.

    For example, I remember doing a research study on "taste bud senses". Almost everyone else called certain flavors "barely sweet" or "not sweet" which I called "too sweet".
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    But I would call prawns "rich". Much as I like them, I get that cloying, sickly-sweet sensation from them if I eat too many, in exactly the same way that I would if I ate too many fudge brownies.
    With prawns the price they are, I've never had the opportunity eat that many.

    May be it was the rich seafood sauce on the prawns. :D
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    To me, heavy means slow to digest and high in saturated fat. It is negative in connotation. Rich usually means filling, in a positive sense, or high calorie, with neutral connotation, but it can also be used negatively, either as "heavy" or as "empty calories".
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    To me, heavy means slow to digest and high in saturated fat. It is negative in connotation. Rich usually means filling, in a positive sense, or high calorie, with neutral connotation, but it can also be used negatively, either as "heavy" or as "empty calories".
    I recall meals and foods being called "heavy" when I was a child, long before saturated and unsaturated fats were a part of the world's vocabulary.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I recall meals and foods being called "heavy" when I was a child, long before saturated and unsaturated fats were a part of the world's vocabulary.
    In those days, I never heard (liquid) vegetable oil called "fat", just "oil". I said "saturated" just to make clear I meant actual fat (lard, butter, grease, shmaltz, tallow), not oil.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    In those days, I never heard (liquid) vegetable oil called "fat", just "oil". I said "saturated" just to make clear I meant actual fat (lard, butter, grease, shmaltz, tallow), not oil.
    Fair enough. Better now that you expanded on it.
     
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