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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Foodie Talk with a History Lesson
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...
Published on November 24, 2008 by S. Young

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thorough But Not Enjoyable
This book is unbelievably thorough. Each section leaves nothing for imagination or conjecture - the research is presented in such a way that there are no unanswered questions.

I found the book difficult to read all the way through. Because the author provides the same level of detail in each chapter, it is fairly dense reading if you're not interested in a...
Published on February 28, 2009 by NuJoi


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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Foodie Talk with a History Lesson, November 24, 2008
By 
S. Young (Bountiful, Utah USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 (Hardcover)
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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. With it comes new ideas in cooking. Instead of heavy foods where they combined every taste together (sweet, sour, salty, etc) the French start to refine their flavors.

I could go on but I can't give it all away.

And last, but never least, in my eyes her appendix has around forty recipes. Have you ever noticed how food just sounds more exciting in French? (Could be why I wanted to read this book and you're reading my review) Sauce a la Crème, sounds so much more appetizing than Cream Sauce.

She has recipes for potage, which is mentioned a bit, showing how important the dish was `back in the day'. Many chicken recipes, and how about beets with a beurre blanc sauce? (I might actually eat beets that way).

Totally packed with the history of French eating, excellent footnotes if you want to find related books to read. I enjoyed it a lot.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bon Appetit!, November 25, 2008
This review is from: A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 (Hardcover)
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This is a VERY readable, informative, and interesting book about food and the rise of French cuisine.

I was amazed to find that there is nothing new under the sun; as far back as 460 B.C. Hippocrates was saying that, "Patients who had fallen ill could be cured by foods..."

"Ideas about the role of food and cooking in maintaining health and curing disease that originated in ancient Greece continued to shape culinary practices on the cusp of modernity."

In the fourth century, vegatables became linked with the monastic practice of abstinence from meat. As late as 1650, vegatables were still associated with penance and it wasn't until the 1700;s that vegetables began to claim serious attention. "The sweet potato acquired a reputation as an aphrodisiac and booster of male fertility," while in contrast the common potato was mostly ignored until the eighteenth century.

By the mid 1700's, the idea of "simplicity as the definitive principle of good cooking (as opposed to variety) was a concept born of the Enlightenment." and Rousseau had a lot he wanted to say about that!

These are but a minute portion of fascinating facts told in an engaging way about the revolution of taste through the ages.

There are chapters about wine and the once despised champagne, the duality of artifice and simplicity in the kitchen, and last of all are some easy to follow recipes from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The author has made it easy for today's cook to follow them.

A really enjoyable read for the lover of good food packed with interesting information.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining read for the erudite gourmet, November 29, 2008
By 
Doug Urquhart (Southport, CT USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 (Hardcover)
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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. Each age seems to have spawned a different group, from the Hippocratic physicians through the proponents of 'Newtonian' iatromechanism, to Jean-jacques Rousseau himself. All were eloquent in their dietary advice and prohibitions, and all were talking utter bilge. There are many quotations from these worthies in this book - they make for hilarious reading.

As a bonus, Ms Pinkard dispells a few culinary myths: Dom Perignon invented Champagne? Wrong. I bet you can't guess who did. The Italians brought Haute Cuisine to France? Sorry - just propaganda.

Highly recommended for the food enthusiast in your household. Degree in gastronomy not required.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous history for foodies and historians alike, February 12, 2010
By 
FrenchTurk (Princeton, NJ) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 (Hardcover)
This is an excellent new history on a fascinating subject. Pinkard treats her subject beautifully, in lovely and very clear prose. The analogy between nouvelle cuisine innovations and modern locavorism is intriguing. The addition of modernized recipes in the appendix is a pleasant bonus, especially for those of us who are familiar with the original recipes and have always puzzled over some of the more opaque instructions, or wondered what the results would be.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More rise than revolt, December 21, 2008
This review is from: A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 (Hardcover)
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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. Now I read that part of the pageantry was to hide real live birds in an already baked pie crust of formidable size. And another informational egg: This is the time of the seven course meal. Medieval times understandably began with the entree, which opens the appetite. Openers tended to be acid while closers were mellow. She leads you through the intervening courses, with two more after leaving table.

Moving into the Renaissance, we find basic continuity. There is a lot of meat here, even for the lower classes. Of course, they eat tough, stringy beef, not lamb or pork or chicken because old cows and bulls are a product of the lucrative leather trade. Vegetables rise in stature and variety. Catherine comes to France, but in a continuity of cuisine. No transformation here. Good exposition is given for this period. But I am not sure the title is all that apt for this book as we move into its second part.

Revolution seems to me too easy an analogy of the French Revolution proper, but that was sudden, savage and severe. Maybe the publisher wanted a hook, rather than to have the sort of bland title that academics would typically use.

Post-Renaissance, we are introduced to two important cooks books that point the way to delicate cooking. Cooking to bring out the essence reaches to chemistry and to art. Also, the old social ways are replaced by the new society in Paris. Tables are not ridden by status and rank. Tables of a dozen can be sat around, rather than regimented in sitting order, right and left.

We have moved from the complex confusion to the simple. Instead of yoking opposites, emphasis is placed on essences of peas and chickens, cabbages and artichoke. If simple, the cooking is now rich. Cream, butter, flour and egg all coax the essence of the main ingredient to emerge.

Yet simple does not mean easy. Steps are many and some are laborious. Follow her through preparing pigeon bisque. Sauces are now magnifiers and amplifiers rather than masks or opposers.

Once she turns the corner of 1650, Dr. Pinkard is in her glory that makes the book rate the fifth star. Topic after significant topic is introduced, illuminated and evaluated. This book is one of history, not a cookbook. If you have at least intermediate skill and interest, whether home, hobbyist or professional, this book also serves as a useful source of ideas, information and inspiration.

In full disclosure, I noticed that her book is dedicated to Terry. If this means Terry Pinkard, he might have been my professor of philosophy at Georgetown (along with my friend Zia Sedghi). Susan was at University of Chicago, where my daughter finished her undergraduate degree recently. Highly recommended anyway.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Captivating, December 23, 2008
This review is from: A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 (Hardcover)
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A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 struck me as the title for a textbook or otherwise similarly dry and uninviting work. However, soon after I dove into this book, I found myself reading at a voracious pace, hungry not only for the detailed cuisine, but for all of the little treasures woven together within this rich account of history. I've been told since I was in third grade not to use 'well written' to describe a book in a review, but Pinkard shows the highest skill in condensing and organizing an immense amount of culinary history, ranging broader than 1650-1800 even. You will see plenty of citations on each page to remind you this is a thorough and technical text.

Despite my apprehensions, this book easily ranked up among my favorites in the genre; and it's a genre I've been reading a lot of lately. It even cleared up a few misconceptions I've had from reading some less reliable sources. In fact, Pinkard covers a lot of ground that I've had to piece together from many books. Having read this book earlier would have given me better insight regarding say the workings of the Culinary Institute of America, for example. It's a rich and engaging history that any foodie or history-buff would greatly enjoy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great and interesting history, December 18, 2008
This review is from: A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 (Hardcover)
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As someone who never really "got" French cooking, this book was a real treat. It begins by laying out the history of Western cooking in general, beginning in Greece and Rome, and goes on to explain how, why, and when French cuisine stepped into its own arena and eventually became the gold standard in cooking. It's very well sourced, generally readable, and very eye-opening.

As a result of reading this book, I not only "get" French cuisine, but I'm now eager to have some armed with my new knowledge. While French food in general still isn't my preferred fare (based on the book, it's clear I'm more of a Medievalist in terms of taste), I think that sitting down for dinner in a French restaurant would be a lot more interesting, and I will appreciate much better what's happening on my place.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thorough But Not Enjoyable, February 28, 2009
By 
NuJoi "Create with me" (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 (Hardcover)
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This book is unbelievably thorough. Each section leaves nothing for imagination or conjecture - the research is presented in such a way that there are no unanswered questions.

I found the book difficult to read all the way through. Because the author provides the same level of detail in each chapter, it is fairly dense reading if you're not interested in a particular topic. For instance, I found the first chapter, "The Ancient Roots of Medieval Cooking," dull. I felt obligated to read it because I wanted to be able to better appreciate the "revolution" of the new French cuisine. To be fair, as other reviewers have noted, the author outlines in the preface key subjects of interest.

The author's vocabulary is extensive, which I normally enjoy. However, when combined with the sometimes dry presentation of fact after fact, I felt as if I were reading a report on research findings.

This book is a great source of reference material and the subject matter promised to excite my foodie passions. Unfortunately, I found it to be a painful read; it took me months to get through the book. I would have preferred a different style of writing - one more inviting, impassioned and conversational.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MOST PALATABLE FOOD HISTORY, February 18, 2010
This review is from: A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 (Hardcover)
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An ingredient that will take a book to another level is often the love and care the author feels for the subject, in this case it is French cuisine and it's intriguing history. Author Susan Pinkard's enthusiasm and love for the subject at hand propels her book towards the rarity of excellence and makes for a great and entertaining read. As an amateur chef with a great interest in food the historical insight in this book book was both revealing and a very pleasant surprise. Historical anecdotes abound and enliven the book. It is most interesting to understand the evolution of cooking from heavy sauces intended to disguise bad (no refrigerators then) food to those that would enhance and bring out the natural flavor of food was most informative for me. Another evolution was the change from food as medicinal to something a bit more derived from taste is also interesting. It is all here, a great history, an appendix, and even recipes that can actually be understood. A must for the foodie or for anyone just interested in a fine read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thick and rich, August 20, 2009
By 
Chambolle (Bainbridge Island, WA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 (Hardcover)
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This is a DENSE little volume. Extensively researched and annotated, it covers everything from the health food fads of the 1600s, to the arrival of the artichoke in various European cities in the 1400s and 1500s, and in Paris itself "shortly after 1532."

You will learn how typical seating arrangements at medieval dining tables discouraged conversation during meals.

Or how, between 1600 and 1650, "culinary refinement" to flatter the tastes of gourmets began to take precedence over prevailing medical theories, some dating back to the time of Hippocrates, about the health effects of various foods and diets.

And how, with the growing profusion of fresh meats and vegetables, French cooking evolved from an early era of heavy, sweet and acidic sauces which largely masked the taste of the food (which might not be so darned good) to delicate cooking and sauces intended to highlight the freshness and natural flavors of meat and produce.

The development of roux based sauces, emulsions. The fact that "nouvelle cuisine" was actually a term first used about food and cooking in 1742 -- eat your hearts out, Gault-Millau.

The arrival of coffee in France in the mid-17th century and how it transformed the typical French breakfast. The evolution (the author calls it a "revolution") from winemaking for local consumption, with wines of reasonably low alcohol and little extract, intended for drinking young, to the deeper and richer Bordeaux, Burgundy and other French wines we collect and cellar today.

There is a handful of recipes from the 17th and 18th century (I've not tried them yet). An extensive bibliography for those who really want to dig in.

Quite the book for the serious foodie. Not likely to be a book most folks will take to the beach, however.
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A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800
A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, 1650-1800 by Susan Pinkard (Hardcover - September 29, 2008)
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