The Physiology Of Taste or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy Paperback – Sep 11 2000
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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.
In contrast to a very pricey limited edition published --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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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.
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 ›
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 ›
Most recent customer reviews
Good book and quickly acceptable for easy reading. The best translation I have found of this book yet thak youPublished on Nov. 17 2013 by shannon