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The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food Paperback – August 21, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2011: Adam Gopnik again demonstrates his considerable talents in The Table Comes First, a collection of musings on one of his favorite subjects: food. Fans of Paris to the Moon and Through the Children’s Gate know that Gopnik is a true gourmand whose tastes have been refined in the kitchen with his friend Alice Waters, on the velvet banquettes of Parisian bistros, and at chaotic New York City takeout counters. These essays cover a broad range of food-related topics, including the origins of the modern restaurant and the arguments for and against eating meat. But Gopnik’s overarching mission is to celebrate the pleasures of sitting around a table and sharing a meal with family and friends--a pleasure, he notes, that is at once universal and deeply personal. It is at this intersection of macro and micro where Gopnik’s insatiable intellect and warmth are best displayed. --Juliet Disparte --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“Adam Gopnik brilliantly weaves together the history, philosophy, and culture of food with his deep passion for cooking and the shared pleasures of the table.”
—Ina Garten

“At once sweeping and intimate. . . . Gopnik’s story is more ambitious than a history of restaurants—it’s about how we taste, dream, and argue about food. . . . The Table Comes First indulges gourmands everywhere. And it’s a refreshing defense of the nation responsible in so many ways for the way we eat now. In Gopnik’s distinctive style, it is encyclopedic yet personal and funny, and it drives at deeper truths.”
Newsweek
 
“Captivating.”
The New York Times
 
“Exuberant. . . . What flows through [The Table Comes First] is a deep fascination with gastronomy as a life force and with the way it’s awakened and flourished over the last couple of centuries. . . . Gopnik acts as reporter, historian, participant and philosopher as he leads us on a kind of walking tour of the food world.”
Slate
 
“Unapologetically intelligent yet charmingly witty . . . [here is] history, nutrition, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology all rolled up into one delectable streusel of insight and illumination.”
The Atlantic
 
“Gopnik is the nearest thing there is—in the English-speaking world, at any rate—to a philosopher of food. . . . These essays blend enormous erudition with great elegance of expression, and pack intellectual firepower too.”
New Statesman
 
“I need to read anything that Adam Gopnik writes, and this book on food, eating and—it follows—life is a particular feast. His acuity, grace, sensitive intelligence (in short, his brilliance) are, as ever, dazzlingly displayed and yet with the lightest of touches.”
—Nigella Lawson
 
“Gopnik would surely be the world’s greatest dinner guest; he can make any subject fascinating, and always backs up his curiosity with unhurried research and an acute eye for the telling detail.”
Chicago Tribune
 
“Compelling. . . . Gopnik gets elbow deep in heady theory, culinary history, and his own passions. . . . He is a champion at making connections, wild and free-ranging. Among the allusions are revelations.”
The Boston Globe
 
“The perfect book for any intellectual foodie, a delicious book packed with so much to sink your teeth into.”
—Padma Lakshmi
 
“Entertaining. . . . Gopnik’s long experience with France and fine dining yields some fine observations. . . . [Reading The Table Comes First,] you feel as if you’re sitting across the table from an amusing friend recounting his adventures.”
Minnesota Star Tribune
 
“Gopnik’s discussions on the changing nature of tastes and how it defines what we believe to be ‘good’ and ‘right’ in food are a timely study on the divergent yet complementary trends in modern cooking.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
 
“Gopnik’s writing about food is highly intellectual and profoundly witty, while also being warm and personal and rooted in common sense. He thinks hard about the routines of the table, and makes you think too.”
—John Lanchester, author of The Debt to Pleasure
 
“Those who share Gopnik’s twin affections for food and reading will find plenty to savor in The Table Comes First. . . . He’s an essayist in the grand tradition, throwing out pithy sentences that offer the reader plenty to argue about, and then blithely contradicting himself on the next page. It’s easy to imagine how pleasant a table companion he must be.”
The Columbus Dispatch

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (August 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307476960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307476968
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Malfoyfan on November 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was just looking at the reviews of this book, which I finished last night, and I'm in agreement with a couple of people here - this book can be entertaining at times, but as a whole it didn't work that well for me. I enjoy Gopnik's New Yorker pieces, or I did when I was taking the magazine. They were always well-written and to the point. However, in this book, his writing seemed to get away from him. Run-on sentences galore, and most chapters went on longer than they needed to. IMO, if a chapter FEELS long while I'm reading it, and I'm thinking, please, just get on with it already, some editing is in order. I also thought the emails to the long-dead English writer Elizabeth Pennell were unnecessary and didn't contribute to the book. Gopnik is obviously a very educated person and did a lot of research for the book, and some of it is very interesting, but compared to MFK Fisher, Ruth Reichl, and Laurie Colwin, to name a few, he doesn't measure up as a food writer. I don't have a post-grad degree, but I read a lot of books (including books about food, cooking and farming) and it just didn't entertain or enlighten me enough to recommend it.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jesse K. dart on December 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm a fan of his writing in general, and in fact his previous books were really good. I follow him on the New Yorker as well, and those articles are also generally well thought out and edited, also researched. This book is too long. It rambles through some interesting historical points, but while going nowhere. I read alot of food books, web sites, blogs, etc. and the information in the book makes me think that Mr Gopnik is completly out of touch with other food writing today. He says he loves food which you can see from his other writing, but this book desperately needed to be edited down to something more coherent and manageable. The emails are not really interesting enough to be in the book.

If your looking to buy an Adam Gopnik book, you can by any of the others and have a winner. If you want a book on gastronomy, French Cooking, or food history, there is a list a mile long that will serve you better.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eric Leventhal on January 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Adam Gopnik's earlier book, Paris to the Moon, delighted me with its insight, charm and wit. So when I heard Gopnik interviewed on NPR about his latest book THE TABLE COMES FIRST, it became an instant must read. I am sorry to say this volume does not live up to expectations.

THE TABLE is meant to be the insightful exploration of the meaning of gathering for a meal at home or in a restaurant, as the jacket blurb promises. It is in reality a report on trends: localism, slow food, quantitative wine reviews and the so-called crisis in French cooking, with some observations about family and France along the way. Info that is timely, not timeless.

PARIS/MOON recreates the experience of living among the French. Gopnik's combination of close observation and historic review reveals what feels like the truth about French civilization-- a key to understanding the nation and people. And he does so with elan and many a bon mot.

In this work only his demi chapter on the origin of the cookbook recaptures the tone of delightful discovery, dry wit and ironic bewilderment I so much enjoy and admire in his earlier writing.

Gopnik devotes a chapter to `taste,' a topic that has entire books devoted to it. The question of Taste and her sisters Manners and Morals involves anthropology, sociology, history and religion. To squeeze it into just a chapter, the author covers huge swaths of intellectual territory at a brisk clip. His offering is­ (to use culinary metaphors) half baked, dense and hard to digest. After this didactic, half-convincing introduction of the main topic, the rest of the book feels flimsy.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By James Ellsworth on December 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As much as I like to read food writing, I do not get what I am looking for from Adam Gopnik. There are plenty of words--almost too many--and once in a while I find an interesting insight. In the end, I find myself craving more information about technique. Gopnik seems to look at dining as an extension of other sensory experiences and his comparing food and sexual experiences strikes me as being aside from the point. In this regard, his writing and my reading tastes are not compatible--although I do not mean to suggest he is all the time talking about some sexual equivalent of every food experience. Gopnik is no Jeffrey Steingarten and I much prefer the latter for his sense of manic experimentation with how food is best prepared.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By K. Marcum on January 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely love Adam Gopnik's writing. Paris to the Moon is one of my favorite nonfiction books--to me, a perfect combination of the public and the personal. Gopnik's strength is the ability to observe something carefully and well and then comment on it in ways that take it from the singular to the universal. My favorite parts of his writing are these careful rhapsodies, grounded in the real. I also love food writing, and have been reading anything I can get my hands on for at least the last decade. So when I heard he was coming out with a food book, I couldn't wait to read it. Now I've been carrying it around on my iPad for several weeks and can't get through more than a couple of pages at a time.

I loved the introduction, and his comment on how historically food writing has concerned itself more with what happens around the table than what's on it. (Yes, I thought, and that's what I hate about food tv). But it ground to a halt not long after that. I do recognize pieces here and there that appeared in the New Yorker, and they are better--more entertaining and tightly focused--than the material at surrounds it. But mostly the book just drags on. Gopnik rhapsodizes and rhapsodizes, but it's not balanced by his traditional research and sharp observations. And so it grows tedious. Skip this one and read anything else of his.
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