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The Physiology of Taste: Or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy (Vintage Classics) Paperback – October 4, 2011
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“It takes someone like Brillat-Savarin to remind us that cooking need not be the fraught, perfectionist, slightly paranoid struggle that it has latterly become. His love of food is bound up with a taste for human error and indulgence, and that is why The Physiology of Taste is still the most civilized cookbook ever written.” —The New Yorker
"The Physiology of Taste is about the pleasures of the table—how to eat, when to eat, why to eat—but it is also about much, much more. Along the way, Brillat-Savarin philosophizes, gossips, and recalls past flirtations. . . . High spirited and irreverent, Fisher matches his philosophical meanderings. Her extensive translator's notes, which take up almost a quarter of the book, are funny and scholarly by turns." —San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755–1826) was a lawyer and the mayor of Belley, France, before he fled the Revolution in 1793. After a brief exile in the United States, he returned to Paris and was appointed a judge in the court of appeals. He spent the last twenty-five years of his life living peacefully in Paris and writing The Physiology of Taste.
Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (1908–1992), author of Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, and more than twenty other books about the art of eating well, is widely acknowledged as a pioneer of food writing as a literary genre.
Top Customer Reviews
Brillat-Savarin was a French judge who barely escaped with his life during the Reign of Terror; to be able to write such a light-hearted, witty, fun book after such an ordeal is in itself a miracle. But The Physiology of Taste is more than a romp; it's a trip into the past. From a detailed inventory of the senses (including the 'generative sense' -- there's no mistaking the author's nationality!) to a description of a turkey hunt in New England while in exile, Brillat-Savarin's love of food, good company and beautiful women is a reminder to us that life can be good.
I highly recommend this book.
Still, I stand behind the three stars. Brillat-Savarin is not a brilliant author, but his insights into at least a few well-chosen subjects shine across the nearly two centuries since these "meditations" were penned. Long before the Atkins craze gripped American nutrition, for example, one can find here (in Meditation #21: "On Obesity"): "... the principal cause of any fatty corpulence is always a diet overloaded with starchy and farinaceous elements ..." One wonders how our 20th century nutritional experts missed this--especially since the good author's book has been out nearly two hundred years and very popular across Europe for much of this time.
Other nuggets of wisdom are equally remarkable. His analysis of taste manages to turn the standard teeth-chew-the-food, stomach-takes-the-food scientific tract into a celebration of good flavors. A long meditation "on food in general" gives any reader new perspectives on coffee, chocolate, and especially truffles. But physiology is never far behind; the aforementioned tasting discussion includes a prophetic note about the contributions of smell.Read more ›
Now, with those details out of the way, let me make bold to say that this is one of the world's great books!
When I first began reading it, I became annoyed: "Who is this Frenchman, who thinks he can write about, and tell me about, everything under the sun?" For the book contains many, many digressions. I have seen it referred to as a "cookbook," which is wildly wrong -- it is MEANT to be a book about food and the art of cooking food. And no less about the art of eating food.
But the many digressions are the key to this wonderful book.
A brief biography: born in 1755, trained as a lawyer, Brillat-Savarin became the mayor of his home town, Belley. But he fled France at the time of the Revolution, and went to America. After his brief exile, he returned to Paris and served as a judge in the court of appeals. He spent the last twenty-five years of his life living peacefully, and writing this book.
Did he know that he was creating a masterpiece? Interesting question!
As his intrepid translator, M.F.K. Fisher comments, this seems to be a book which will last more than a century or two. It may well live for thousands of years.
Because of the personality and intelligence of the author! Just like Fisher, I wish that I had been one of his friends! And, when push comes to shove, one purpose of a library is to provide an army of friends, hopefully intelligent, gentle, serene, and perceptive.Read more ›
Brillat-Savarin, among other roles, was the basis of Marcell Rouff's _The Passionate Epicure,_ a fictional book gently combining food and sex (naturally, as a friend of mine remarked, since it's French), which was widely read in English when the translation appeared in 1962. Marcella Hazan and (I believe) Julia Child cited it in their cookbooks. In his preface to the 1962 Rouff, Lawrence Durrell (himself a fashionable author at that time) explained that many in the Brillat-Savarin family "died at the dinner table, fork in hand" and that Brillat's sister Pierrette, two months before her hundredth birthday, spoke at table what are to food fanatics easily the most famous last words ever: "Vite! Apportez-moi le dessert -- je sens que je vais passer!"
Fisher's translation and notes are a lively part of this edition of Brillat-Savarin (happily reprinted recently). Some booksellers offer newer editions by different English translators; I don't know why.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed reading this book! For as old as the book is and even the translation it was really nice to read. I really love food and like to try all sorts of things in the kitchen. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Paul
A classic text related to the culinary arts, goes well with the film, Vatel. Excellent condition. A good choice for the collector, a devoteé of all things French, and for... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Albert V. lesley