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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "In cooking you begin with the ache...."
"In cooking you begin with the ache and end with the object, where in most of the life of the appetites---courtship, marriage---you start with the object and end with the ache."

Do you see why I love Adam Gopnik? He can take the simplest of activities---like cooking, for example---and he can find great wisdom there. Half the time I don't understand what he's...
Published on September 2, 2012 by Debnance at Readerbuzz

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73 of 78 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts, not as a whole
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...
Published on November 29, 2011 by Malfoyfan


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73 of 78 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts, not as a whole, November 29, 2011
By 
Malfoyfan "Cath" (Valley Village, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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
1.0 out of 5 stars Good Idea, tooooo long., December 6, 2011
By 
Jesse K. dart (Greenville, Illinois United States) - See all my reviews
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
2.0 out of 5 stars Appetizing but unsatisfying., January 24, 2012
By 
Eric Leventhal (Bflo, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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. Instead of revealing immutable truths Gopnik's observations are just (well written) notes on trends and of passing interest.

To fill out the volume, Gopnik includes letters (actually emails) to his new favorite food writer Elizabeth Pennell. These missives are inspired by favorite recipes and give him the opportunity to really talk about the food he loves to cook and eat. They are lively, chatty and personal. 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. When he writes about food to Pennell he's really showing off, trying to provoke a return of affection through a combination of arcana, familiarity and shared experience. It's a pleasure to catch Gopnik in this unbuttoned, enthusiastic mode, but also a little embarrassing. The letters are to Pennell, so we are eavesdroppers. And since he's writing to another A-list foodie, his recipes are short on technical detail because she of course knows all the techniques and flavors.

Gopnik explains why certain contemporary faddists eat the way they do. He tries but, I think, falls short of delivering his key to the mythology of food. For a more illuminating, lasting and entertaining run at that challenge I recommend the works of the irrepressible Canadian teacher and lecturer Margaret Visser, The Rituals of Dinner and Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos of an Ordinary Meal.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious foodie, March 12, 2012
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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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A pudding without a theme, January 4, 2012
By 
exurbanite (Inverness, CA) - See all my reviews
According to legend, Winston Churchill once returned a dessert with an important message. "Waitress", he declared, "take back this pudding. It has no theme!"

The same can be said here, for this book is a pudding without a theme or, worse yet, without much purpose. There is virtually nothing in it that has not been written about before; it merely rehashes material on dishes, recipes, restaurants, wine, reviews and reviewers, all of it either familiar, obvious, trivial, or simply tiresome.

In traditional New Yorker magazine fashion, Gopnik dresses up this banal stew with clever little asides, literary references, insider gossip, and other such patronizing flourishes. It doesn't work. All that is thereby accomplished is to add an irritating parochial New York gloss.

What we have here, in short, is yet another fluff-ball of a book that need not have been published.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I Can't Warm Up to Adam Gopnik Books, December 28, 2011
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "In cooking you begin with the ache....", September 2, 2012
This review is from: The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food (Paperback)
"In cooking you begin with the ache and end with the object, where in most of the life of the appetites---courtship, marriage---you start with the object and end with the ache."

Do you see why I love Adam Gopnik? He can take the simplest of activities---like cooking, for example---and he can find great wisdom there. Half the time I don't understand what he's talking about as I'm reading along; it's only later, when I'm looking over his words again, that his thoughts become clear to me.

Here's another example of Gopnik's wisdom that often goes over my head in a first reading, truth that is wiser than simple information about cooking and eating: "It seems to me that the real spirit of localism---the thing most worth taking from it---is the joke: the playful idea of the pleasure of adventure, the idea, at the heart of most aesthetic pleasures, that by narrowing down, closing up, the area of our inquiry, we can broaden out and open up the possibilities of our pleasures."
And not only does he find deep wisdom in simple activity, but he shares his ruminations with a cleverness that few essayists display:

"Yes, of course, everybody's recipe is someone else's recipe, with the exception of those few rare new things that someone really did invent....But there is a recipe that has, so to speak, through suffering become yours, unlike those that you have simply copied out of a book. We recognize the concept of sweat equity in recipe writing: if you have labored nightly over a stove in a restaurant kitchen cooking the thing, then you can write it down, even if its origins lie ultimately not in your own mind but in someone else's cooking."

"The good food of twenty-five years ago always looks unhealthy; the good food of fifty years ago always looks unappetizing; and the good food of a hundred years ago always looks inedible."

"On the other hand, or in the other fork...."

And beneath his wisdom and his cleverness, Gopnik shares little tidbits of the craft that help us all:

Gopnik suggests that everything is better by adding a little saffron and cinnamon or bacon and anchovies.

He also shares the surprising truth that good cooks either go very hot or surprisingly cold. They have time.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ugh...tedious, January 1, 2012
By 
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Way too far over my head..., May 12, 2012
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I had high hopes for this book...but ultimately I was disappointed. I bought this book for a class at the University of Michigan (Eng 125), and was looking forward to using it as a reference. Adam Gopnik seems to know his stuff on the history of restaurants, recipes and cookbooks, however this is overshadowed by his pompous and uninteresting dialogue. He is also obsessed with sensuality and sexual themes throughout the books, often making comments such as "...she must have had a great sex life." Why this has anything to do with the subject matter is beyond me. I would not recommend this book to anyone, it isn't worth the time!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars exhausting...like eating a too heavy meal on a hot summers day, June 7, 2012
becoming a gop-nik has eluded me. he is a portentous writer. some sections of 'the table' are interesting, but gopnik's writing gets in the way of what in the hands of others, has proven a fascinating history of food. i would much rather reread mfk fisher, brillat savarin, jane grigson, and elizabeth david, who list among the many great, naturalistic food writers whose sense of style soars above gopnik's ponderous need to be meaningful. he is my least favorite food writer, the second being the overly floral patricia wells.
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The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food
The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food by Adam Gopnik (Paperback - August 21, 2012)
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