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The Physiology Of Taste or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy [Paperback]

M. F. K. Fisher
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 11 2000
Published in 1825 after some three decades of consuming research, The Physiology of Taste is the most famous book ever written about food. It remains among the most comprehensive, stimulating, and just plain enjoyable works ever published on the subject of the senses and their pleasures. In a work spiced with style and wisdom, Brillat-Savarin declares that "Animals feed themselves; men eat; but only wise men know the art of eating."

M.F.K. Fisher's translation of Brillat-Savarin's masterpiece, originally published in 1825, is a true marriage of minds and sensibilities, a classic against which all subsequent gastronomical writing must be measured. Published in 1825 after some three decades of consuming research, The Physiology of Taste is the most famous book ever written about food. Witty and elegant, it is a classic in the grandest sense. Brillat-Savarin set out to write about food and cookery, but his interests and enthusiasms ranged so widely over matters of the human spirit that they could hardly be contained, and his work-here in its greatest translation-sits on the shelf of masterpieces of world literature. Its treasures include: observations on feasting and fasting and on the advantages of gourmandism, including its influence on marital happiness discourses on obesity and its cure and on the calamity of thinness, particularly in women, with prescriptions for fattening them up Brillat-Savarin's twenty famous aphorisms, including, "Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are."

A work spiced with style and wisdom, The Physiology of Taste remains among the most comprehensive, stimulating, and enjoyable works ever published on the subject of the senses and their pleasures. Epicureans by vocation and avocation will want this beautiful hardcover edition for their reference shelves. This elegant and witty book is a classic in the grandest sense. Brillat-Savarin set out to write about food and cookery, but his interests and enthusiasms ranged so widely over matters of the human spirit that they could hardly be contained, and his work-here in its greatest translation-sits on the shelf of masterpieces of world literature. As translator, M.F.K. Fisher proved to be Brillat-Savarin's twentieth-century spiritual companion. Her lively footnotes and commentaries constitute nearly a quarter of the text, a seductive dialogue of romance between two great lovers of life and style. Its treasures include: observations on feasting and fasting and on the advantages of gourmandism, including its influence on marital happiness analysis and definition of the senses, with a gastronomical test to measure the degree of one's gift for taste discourses on obesity and its cure and on the calamity of thinness, particularly in women, with prescriptions for fattening them up talk of truffles and their possible erotic effect, of coffee and its stimulative powers, of chocolate, and omelets, and eels Brillat-Savarin's twenty famous aphorisms, including, "Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are." a philosophic survey of the history of cooking anecdotes of unforgettable meals and the stratagems by which they were obtained, elaborate practical jokes, and culinary challenges met and surmounted.


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You can't properly call yourself a gourmand (or even a minor foodie) until you've digested Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's delectable 1825 treatise, The Physiology of Taste: Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy. Brilliantly and lovingly translated in 1949 by M.F.K. Fisher (herself the doyenne of 20th-century food writing), the book offers the Professor's meditations not just on matters of cooking and eating, but extends to sleep, dreams, exhaustion, and even death (which he defines as the "complete interruption of sensual relations"). Brillat-Savarin, whose genius is in the examination and discussion of food, cooking, and eating, proclaims that "the discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a star."

Chocoholics will be satisfied to know that "carefully prepared chocolate is as healthful a food as it is pleasant ... that it is above all helpful to people who must do a great deal of mental work...." He examines the erotic properties of the truffle ("the truffle is not a positive aphrodisiac; but it can, in certain situations, make women tenderer and men more agreeable"), the financial influence of the turkey (apparently quite a prize in 19th-century Paris), and the level of gourmandise among the various professions (bankers, doctors, writers, and men of faith are all predestined to love food). Just as engrossing as the text itself are M.F.K. Fisher's lively, personal glosses at the end of every chapter, which make up almost a quarter of the book. These two are soulmates separated by centuries, and Fisher's fondness for the Professor comes through on every page. As she notes at the end, "I have yet to be bored or offended, which is more than most women can say of any relationship, either ghostly or corporeal." --Rebecca A. Staffel --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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In contrast to a very pricey limited edition published --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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The senses are the organs through which man communicates with external objects. Read the first page
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite morsels - but a bland meal March 8 2004
By Valjean
Format:Paperback
Full disclosure: I admit I read this book based on juicy rumors from gastronomy sources that it was considered an "underground classic" and summarily treasured by modern (and well-placed) gourmet cooks. And to complete that thought, I'll spare you, dear review-reader, some suspense: this book disappointed me. I even found the notes (glibly called "translator's glosses") by the esteemed M.F.K. Fisher a bit dry. Maybe the late Ms. Fisher got caught in the same trap; her notes refer almost constantly to the author's fame and wit in *other* contexts but they're uneven in the current text.
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good Nov. 17 2013
By shannon
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Good book and quickly acceptable for easy reading. The best translation I have found of this book yet thak you
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book, a classic, buy it Jan. 1 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Funny, informative, charming: this is one of the best books I've ever read.
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.
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