A culinary classic on the joys of the table—written by the gourmand who so famously stated, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”—in a handsome new edition of M. F. K. Fisher’s distinguished translation and with a new introduction by Bill Buford.
First published in France in 1825 and continuously in print ever since, The Physiology of Taste is a historical, philosophical, and ultimately Epicurean collection of recipes, reflections, and anecdotes on everything and anything gastronomical. Brillat-Savarin, who spent his days eating through the famed food capital of Dijon, lent a shrewd, exuberant, and comically witty voice to culinary matters that still resonate today: the rise of the destination restaurant, diet and weight, digestion, and taste and sensibility.
The book is — what? Does anyone know? Intermittently it is an autobiography, but told principally in dinner anecdotes (except one, which is about a breakfast, but so protracted that it, too, becomes dinner). It is not a cookbook, although the next time you are bestowed with a turbot the size and awkwardness of a small bicycle you will know how to cook it (too big to fit in the oven, the sea creature is effectively steamed in the tub). The difficulty is compounded by the book's opening, which invites us to think of it as something it never becomes. In the first two pages, we learn that a meal without cheese is as incomplete as a woman without an eye, a startling comparison to contemplate. We also learn that a dinner is never boring — at least for the first hour; that a new dish matters more to human happiness than the discovery of a star; that if, at the end of a meal, you are sated and slurring, you do not know how to eat and drink; and, most famously, that you are what you eat, a succinct expression of food and identity repeated so relentlessly that it is now a modern advertising banality. These ''Aphorisms of the Professor'' (''to serve as a preamble to his work and as a lasting foundation for the science of gastronomy'') represent a lifetime of one-liners, the stuff that, revised, scribbled into a notebook, rehearsed and repeated over a fortified beverage, kept the bachelor scholar from ever having to dine alone. But after page 2, the aphorisms disappear. Instead, there is history. Should we trust it? The Professor is not an historian. Or is he? There is science, more science than history, actually a lot of science. Do we dismiss it because we know better? Do we? Who is this guy anyway?From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin Translated by M.F.K. Fisher; Introduction by Bill Buford;. Copyright © 2009 by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
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.
About M.F.K. Fisher
The author of more than twenty books, including As They Were, Sister Age, and Two Towns in Provence (all available from Vintage Books), M.F.K. Fisher spent most of her life in France and California.
“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