You eat, I eat, we all eat, and most of us enjoy food. Some of us love it, but few think about it philosophically, which is precisely what The New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik gives us an opportunity to do with The Table Comes First. For this reader Gopnik is an erudite, witty, entertaining essayist and he exercises those talents to their fullest with his book subtitled "Family, France, and the Meaning of Food."
The intriguing title stems from a quote by the British chef Fergus Henderson. Shortly after the bombings of London Henderson is apparently confounded by young couples who were buying television sets or sofas. He says, I don't understand, don't they know the table comes first?" It surely does for Gopnik who is near to eulogizing an entree, a dessert, a cut of meat.
Dividing his book into four sections Gopnik begins his discussion with a history of the restaurant beginning in eighteenth century France. While it is accepted that the French Revolution was close to ruinous for the arts, a gastronome of the time wrote "...that was not the case with cooking, far from having suffered as a result, it has the Revolution to thank for its rapid progress and motive force."
Part Two, "Choosing at the Table" examines our choices of food whether from a restaurant menu or in a market planning meal at home. "Talking at the Table" is the heading of Part Three, and consists of such intriguing topics as "What Do We Imagine When We Imagine Food?" and "What Do We Write About When We Write About Food?" The concluding section's focus is Leaving the Table as well as a few notes on cooking. One of my favorites is "Cooking is the faith that raw ingredients can be conjured into a nightly miracle."
The Table Comes First is a must for gourmets, gourmands, foodies - in short it's a delight. Gopnik is a highly intellectual writer who writes with a light touch - a very satisfying combination.
- Gail Cooke
If I were to narrow down to one single reason why I enjoyed this book so much, it would be that I care about food every bit as much as the author does. I would not speculate on how broad an audience we that feel this way might be, however, if food matters to you, this book is for you. Gopnik plunges into philosophical, historical, cultural, ideological and culinary arguments, and being the bright essayist he is, comes up with articulate, well-written, intellectually sound statements, the kind that I would gladly discuss over dinner. This is a highly recommendable book.
on December 14, 2013
I've been doing a lot of study towards food security, and attitudes toward food. I was expecting this to be more of a narrative about food attitudes, instead it was more of a history. Still a good read, interesting and well written; just not what I had been expecting/hoping for.