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Eating the Enlightenment: Food and the Sciences in Paris, 1670-1760 Hardcover – November 1, 2012

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Eating the Enlightenment: Food and the Sciences in Paris, 1670-1760 + Defining Culinary Authority: The Transformation of Cooking in France, 1650-1830
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Editorial Reviews


“[Eating the Enlightenment] rewards those who might decide to engage with its fascinating content. Focusing on the Parisian who’s who, Spary explores debates and cultural dynamics that eerily remind us of the way many contemporary consumers in post-industrial societies decide what and how to eat. . . . Spary’s book not only provides us with great information to understand the development of a cuisine that is still among the most prestigious worldwide, but also elicits reflections to our present-day attitudes about food, dietary choices, and their connections to much larger social issues.”

(Fabio Parasecoli Huffington Post)

“The relationship of food to science and Enlightenment is . . . E. C. Spary’s subject in Eating the Enlightenment, but she is less concerned with who cooked it than who wrote and talked about it. A cultural historian of science, Spary explores the impact of new foodstuffs on French habits of consumption and ways of thinking about nutrition.”
(William Doyle Times Literary Supplement)

“Spary’s materials offer new possibilities for seeing the Enlightenment as a contest over practical virtue, over the texture of quotidian life.”
(Los Angeles Review of Books)

“Spary’s work is at the same time a rich and embodied history of food, diet, and digestion in French Enlightenment science, and an account of how social and epistemological authority were produced amid the emergence of new Enlightenment publics. . . . It urges us to reconsider the way we write commodity histories, and is well worth reading.”
(Carla Nappi New Books in Science, Technology, and Society)

“On the whole, Eating the Enlightenment provides a well-researched, original, and occasionally fascinating approach to an interesting dimension of eighteenth-century culture.”
(Biancamaria Fontana, University of Lausanne, Switzerland Times Higher Education)

“A timely book, amply demonstrating that the present cacophony of often-conflicting scientific advice regarding diet and nutrition is no recent development. . . . This significant contribution to the historiography of the Enlightenment should interest a wide variety of scholars of the eighteenth century. Recommended.”
(J. W. McCormack, University of Notre Dame Choice)

“Spary has charted a powerful methodology for reexamining the history of food and foodways that will have long lasting consequences throughout the field.”
(Reviews in History)

“This is a potently inspiring study, one that bears all the evidence of its having gestated, as Spary indicates in a prefatory note, over a long period. Its multifocused nature requires a correspondingly complex exercise of orientation on the reader’s part, but its impressive precision and niceness of judgment across a broad disciplinary spread are as nourishing as the congenial ghosts of its contending authorities might have hoped.”
(Stuart Walton World of Fine Wine)

“In this fascinating book the world of science is multifaceted and colorful. Eighteenth-century Parisian science, in practice, was the synonym for the world of polite elites, public civic servants, luxury fashion designers, food entrepreneurs, coffee drinkers, and commercial liqueur inventors. Iatrochemical doctrines were judged as lifestyle knowledge, and nutritional physiology as learning about moral taste and mental skills. But there is also a message from the past to the present: eating is communication, and multiple actors contribute their meanings. There always exist links between a new cookery and a new natural philosophy. Thus, food knowledge will remain a constantly subject to challenge, questioning, and revision.”
(Barbara Orland, University of Basel Ambix)

“E. C. Spary successfully demonstrates that food is a serious matter of history, involving learned controversies, commercial networks, medical expertise, and even political stakes. This tasty and nourishing book offers us a fresh and unexpected view on Enlightenment culture and Parisian society and raises this important question: why, after all, do people eat what they eat?”
(Antoine Lilti, �cole des hautes �tudes en sciences sociales Paris)

“With this remarkable book, E. C. Spary captures both the science and the sensuality that drove the culture of eating during the French Enlightenment. This is a richly textured history of the transformations that occurred in food science and gustatory practices from 1670 to 1760: it reveals the complex web of relations that bound knowledge about food with knowledge tout court in eighteenth-century Paris, a city that was both a metropolis of exotic consumption and a highly public arena for the display and contestation of claims to learned authority about food. Yet Spary gives us far more than just a new history of eating, taste, and gastronomic connoisseurship: she also provides a groundbreaking account of the Enlightenment, understood not as a neatly packaged ideological movement but as a highly localized process whose aspirants ranged well beyond such famous figures as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot. With its wealth of insights into the history of the body as well as French culture, Eating the Enlightenment offers abundant food for thought for scholars and students in a wide range of fields.”
(Anne Vila, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

“Creatively crossing disciplinary boundaries and interweaving a wide variety of subjects and source materials to show how social, epistemological, and even political authority was constituted in debates about delicacies and digestion, E. C. Spary’s Eating the Enlightenment is sure to be of interest to historians, literature scholars, and historians of science alike.”

(Rebecca L. Spang, author of The Invention of the Restaurant)

About the Author

E. C. Spary is a lecturer in the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of Utopia’s Garden: French Natural History from Old Regime to Revolution and coeditor of Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe: Between Market and Laboratory, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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