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The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 25, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307593452
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307593450
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #492,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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. Anyone who roasts a chicken at home or eats chocolate mousse in a restaurant will be forever changed by this book. I loved it!”
—Ina Garten
 
“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. As the number of TV cooking shows piles up faster than the empty Pop-Tart wrappers in my kitchen, it’s time to ask: Why is the world so fixated on food? Gopnik explores the origins of restaurants, recipes and other grub-centered rituals.”
—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
 
“The perfect book for any intellectual foodie, a delicious book packed with so much to sink your teeth into”
—Padma Lakshmi, author, actress, model and host of the Emmy-winning Top Chef

“Adam Gopnik’s The Table Comes First: France, Family, and the Meaning of Food indulges gourmands everywhere . . . In Gopnik’s distinctive style, it is encyclopedic yet personal and funny, and it drives at deeper truths . . . His story is more ambitious than a history of restaurants—it’s about how we taste, dream, and argue about food. He explores the extremes of strict localism (exhibit A: Brooklyn tilapia). He gets into the heads of apparent adversaries—the meatless crowd and the whole-beast fiends, the Slow Food and molecular movements, the New and Old World wine advocates—and gives each its place in the grand foodie pantheon . . . Gopnik’s take on what makes eating glorious is at once sweeping and intimate.”
—Tracy McNicoll, Newsweek 

 
“Adam 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, The Debt to Pleasure
 
And praise from the UK:
 
“As a dauntless Francophile, a doting father, and a dedicated foodie, Gopnik joins a distinguished corps of essayists who have dedicated themselves to the important subject of gastronomy . . . He possesses the happy knack of combining intellectual curiosity with a quotidian interest in humanity and writes with intelligence, wit, and grace about culinary quiddities and contradictions. From the first restaurants to appear in 18th-century France to fast-food joints, Gopnik unfurls his napkin and tucks in.”
—Iain Finlayson, The Times (London)
 
“Adam Gopnik is an admirably versatile writer . . . The writing is light and bright throughout, the learning deep but informal.”
—Ed Cumming, The Daily Telegraph
 
 ”The Table Comes First is a pleasantly odd, heterogeneous book that never allows itself to be confined by the boundaries of its gastronomical theme. It presents a lavish buffet of history, autobiography, reportage and philosophy, among various other forms . . . One of the main pleasures of The Table Comes First is the way in which Gopnik continually manages to write about food while also gesturing towards larger themes and concerns: family, economics, philosophy, literature, ideas of justice and what it might mean to live a good life . . . Wonderfully eloquent and insightful . . .”
—Mark O’Connell, Sunday Business Post (Ireland)
 
 ”A compelling read about how cooking practices change with every generation, The Table Comes First should be on the shelves of all food enthusiasts. Gopnik explores culinary history, from 19th-century Parisian fine dining to our modern concern with sustainable food.”
Stella magazine
 
“He has a voice that is by turns conversational and dandyish, fancy about everyday pleasures (sport, food) and defiantly unawed about those subjects that are supposed to matter more (art, philosophy) . . . These are personal essays in the fullest sense of the word, sieving the big subjects of the book’s subtitle—family, France, food—through one man’s well-furnished mind.”
—Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian
 
“Adam Gopnik is the nearest thing there is—in the English-speaking world, at any rate—to a philosopher of food . . . [T]hese essays blend enormous erudition with great elegance of expression, and pack intellectual firepower too . . . Gopnik wants us to take food seriously, to believe that the table comes first. At the same time, he wants us to remember that food matters only in so far as we connect it with the broader project of living well, of staying at home with ‘our pleasures as much as our principles’ . . . These essays are a reminder that gastronomy, in order to be profound, must also know its place.”
—William Skidelsky, New Statesman 
 

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Customer Reviews

I had high hopes for this book...but ultimately I was disappointed.
chadwick
Gopnik is a little bit in love with this long-dead "greedy woman" and like any man under a crush tries very hard to impress her and prove his worthiness.
Eric Leventhal
Gopnik rhapsodizes and rhapsodizes, but it's not balanced by his traditional research and sharp observations.
K. Marcum

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Malfoyfan VINE VOICE 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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18 of 22 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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Julian Gardner on March 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
First let me say that I am a fan of Adam Gopnik. That being said,
let me further state that this book is basically boring and, worst
of all, unreadable and extremely repetitious; in great need of an editor.
On page 51 of the hardcover: "This is why teenagers, despite their privileges,
feel so unfree. They are stuck in the Habermasian society."
I doubt that any reader knows what "the Habermasian society" means.
I looked it up: "Habermas is known for his work on the concept of modernity,
particularly with respect to the discussions of "rationalization" originally
set forth by Max Weber. While influenced by American pragmatism, action theory,
and even poststructuralism, many of the central tenets of Habermas' thought
remain broadly Marxist in nature. Global polls identified him as one of the
leading intellectuals of the present." Oh, that helps a lot. Come one Adam, we
know you're smarter than all your readers.
The book reads more like a doctoral thesis on the subject of food and restaurants.
If you get as far as Habermas you're in for much more - but I'll spare you.
Certainly we readers deserve a bit more definition and simplicity and less repetition.
Mr. Gopnik tells us that the bowling league has been replaced by the gym!
Truly? Where does he get a statstic like this? And yes, Adam, WE KNOW
THAT EATING AT A RESTAURANT IS ROMANTIC - you've told us so many times -
but we didn't know seduction could occur following a small glass of wine!
I'll have to try that. Wonder how many ounces in a "small glass?"
...and what wine? Red, white, Champagne? Will beer work? Sorry.
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