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A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 Hardcover – September 29, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Book Description
Modern French habits of cooking, eating, and drinking were born in the Ancièn Regime, radically breaking with culinary traditions that originated in antiquity and creating a new aesthetic. This new culinary culture saw food and wine as important links between human beings and nature. Authentic foodstuffs and simple preparations became the hallmarks of the modern style. Pinkard traces the roots and development of this culinary revolution to many different historical trends, including changes in material culture, social transformations, medical theory and practice, and the Enlightenment. Pinkard illuminates the complex cultural meaning of food in her history of the new French cooking from its origins in the 1650s through the emergence of cuisine bourgeoise and the original nouvelle cuisine in the decades before 1789. This book also discusses the evolution of culinary techniques and includes historical recipes adapted for today's kitchens.

Amazon Exclusive: Author Susan Pinkard on the French Culinary Revolution

Author photograph: Susan Pinkard I wrote A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine because I am fascinated by the intersection of the routines of everyday life with the world of ideas. Eating is a universal human need; but what you eat, how you prepare it, and with whom you share it reveal a lot about who you are, what kind of society you live in, and what you believe about beauty, health, and your place in nature.

Why French food? There are a couple of answers to that question, one of which has to do with history and the other with my life.

From ancient Rome through the Renaissance, cooking all over Europe was pungent, spicy, and sweet or sweet/sour, rather like North African or Middle Eastern food is today. From Naples to London, Seville to Warsaw, cooks used local ingredients as well as imported spices to fuse layers of flavor into complex sauces that were meant to balance the elemental composition of the foods with which they were served. The point, aesthetically as well as in terms of diet, was to civilize ingredients and to render them wholesome by transforming them in the kitchen. Then, quite suddenly, French cooks broke with this ancient tradition. The aim of what was called “the delicate style” was to cook and serve ingredients in a manner that preserved the qualities with which they were endowed by nature: instead of being miraculously transformed by the cook, food was supposed to taste like what it was. In pursuit of this new aesthetic of naturalness and simplicity, cooks developed many techniques and recipes that continue to define French cuisine to this day. Indeed, the impact of the French culinary revolution reverberated far beyond the borders of France. The fact that so many of us moderns wish to eat and drink in a manner that represents the variety of nature reflects our lasting attachment to the idea of authenticity that first emerged in the kitchens of the ancien régime. Why and how had this major shift in sensibility come about? What does the culinary revolution reveal about other aspects of modern life that were also coming into focus in 17th- and 18th-century France? Those were the historical questions I set out to answer in this book.

The other reason why I decided to write about the rise of French cuisine is that I love to eat French food and I cook it almost every day. One of the enduring misconceptions about French cooking (especially in America) is that it is inherently fussy, expensive, and ridiculously rich. Although such a rococo element certainly exists, especially in fancy restaurant cooking, recipes from the cuisine bourgeoise (that is, home cooking as it has evolved in France over the past 250 years) are easy and economical to make and healthy to eat: roasted chicken with a quick deglazing sauce, inexpensive braised meats, poached fish with a little white wine, simply prepared vegetables, plain green salads, puréed soups of leeks, potatoes, and other fresh, cheap ingredients, just to name a few of my favorites. I hope that by focusing attention on the development of this aspect of the culinary tradition, my book will encourage readers to experiment with simple French foods. The historical recipes, in the appendix, are a good place to start.
--Susan Pinkard

Cook up the Enlightenment: Exclusive Recipe Excerpts from A Revolution in Taste

Click here to see authentic (and delicious!) recipes from eighteenth-century France.

• Green Butter with Leek and Parsley (Marin)

• Potage aux Herbes (Marin)

• Roasted Chicken with Bitter Orange and Garlic Deglazing Sauce (Bonnefons)

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The French have been inextricably tied with fine cuisine, and Pinkard's accessible and often fascinating examination of the country's culinary evolution gives foodies a rich, savory treat. Beginning with medieval cooking, characterized by strong seasonings that gave food a singular flavor, Pinkard explains how cooking was greatly influenced by early medicine, which insisted that the body's "humours" could be regulated by spices. As more fruits and vegetables made their way onto French tables, preparation methods evolved. By the mid 1600s, cooks began to emphasize tastes and textures, first incorporating the sauces now associated with classic French cooking. By the mid 1700s there was a drive toward lightness and simplicity called nouvelle cuisine, "a style that could be just as expensive, subtle and exacting to execute as its twentieth-century namesake." Though she rarely points out similarities to current trends like "slow food" and organic ingredients, the parallels are clear and relevant. Digressions on eating patterns, typical meals, the evolution of the dinner party and classic recipes (reproduced in an appendix) add interest and depth. Despite occasional ventures into academic minutiae, anyone interested in the evolution of modern cooking and entertaining is sure to find Pinkard's history a wealth of lore and trivia.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (September 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521821991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521821995
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #674,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Doug Urquhart on November 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book contains recipes, but it isn't a cookery book. Its subject is French cuisine, but it isn't aimed at foodies.

Instead, Ms Pinkard has produced a fascinating study, showing how French cookery made a quantum leap from earlier forms, where the emphasis was on multi-layered, highly-spiced sauces, to a cuisine where the inherent flavour of the food was of paramount importance. (We can see this difference today, if we contrast, say, Indian food with what we would consider typical 'Western' fare.) This new approach put more reliance on good raw materials, required significant investments of time, but produced much more varied and interesting results.

Not only did the cuisine undergo changes, but also the environment in which it was served. In Mediaeval times, and in some of the stuffier royal courts, diners sat only on one side of the table, in order of seniority - an arrangement which limited conversation, and allowed the presenter to reserve the best food for the most important guests. By the 1700s, tables were set in the modern fashion, where guests could converse with everyone else at the table, and had free access to the food, which was placed in the middle of the table.

The French revolution in cookery laid the foundation for virtually all aspects of modern European food, including restaurants, catering and cafes, which were a direct result of the new ways of preparing food. Not everyone had the time and resources to cook for themselves.

These days, we are bombarded with junk-science articles about the dangers (or benefits) of eating or drinking some combination of food.(Red wine - is there anything it can't do?) It is amusing to note that food pundits are not a new invention.
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I can see why Susan Pinkard was told to leave administration and go back into teaching and writing at her University.

I was afraid when I started reading it might be another textbook, but this was a wonderful read. I am a foodie and I love to learn about the history of food, which is what this book will take you on an adventure through.

In the beginning Pinkard shows (even with charts) how the healers of the early Europeans realized that food really does affect your health. It also affected how the people combined foods for everyday eating. You know... the feed a cold, starve a fever theory. I don't think they would have starved a fever out, they would have changed what you ate to balance your internal body out... very cool, and shown to be very true.

From there she continues on with her history lesson into how wars, plagues, foods from the New World, etc, brought about many more changes in how not only foods were consumed but how they were eaten. An interesting reminder was that tomatoes were seen as a poisonous plant for many years in the European countries and potatoes took centuries to become a main crop.

Most of all I love that she explains what they ate and how they ate it. (no forks for a LONG while, everyone sat in a caste system at the table, even the peasants). Her description of the foods was almost like reading Laura Ingalls Wilder `Farmer Boy' I just needing to get something to eat because it sounded so good... Mind you, there were a few things I cringed at, but I'm sure they would cringe at some of the things eaten nowadays. (eating swan and peacock isn't at the top of my list).

From the Renaissance she continues on into the 1600's where food becomes a luxury and there isn't so much formality in eating.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Dr. Pinkard has written an important book in the history of cuisine. Thankfully, she is a more than adequate stylist while preserving academic rigor.

She had me right away when she set out three bubbles to pop:

- Under Catherine de Medici, the Italians brought high cuisine to France
- Spice was used to mask rotten food
- Dom Perignon invented champagne

And, to me, a lesser bubble (more pimple) -- that foods brought from the European discovery of the Americas QUICKLY transformed (caps mine) the European diet in the hundred years after Columbus.

In fine fashion, Dr. Pinkard gives us sufficient background of cuisine in Europe and especially France during the Medieval times, through the Renaissance into the transitional 17th century. We have sixty pages of informative writing which even pays good attention to ancient and Asian elements. I am happy to see her appreciation of Braudel in this history as the great scholar of the many small economic and social events that truly shape history.

She presents the Middle Ages as a cuisine much closer to what I think of as our contemporary styles. This was an age of complicated cooking. They loved to combine opposing tastes such as sweet and savory. Hot pepper (black peppercorns, not chili just yet) and garlic with honey or beet sugar. In part, such force of flavor is compensation for bland staples of greens and beens.

DR. Pinkard gives us plenty of Easter Eggs along the way. I learned the nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence, a pocket full of rye. Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie..." I revisited the rhyme in my college days at Georgetown (who is the publisher of this book) as full of code concerning the religious wars.
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