The Physiology of Taste

Or, Transcendental Gastronomy

 Published in 1854 in Philadelphia, this volume in the American Antiquarian Cookbook Collection is Fayette Robinson’s translation of the latest Paris edition of the classic French gastronomy work by one of the founders of the food-writing genre.

 Perhaps the most influential food writer of his day, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s gastronomic essays are founding documents in the food-writing genre. This great classic of gastronomy is a witty and authoritative compendium on the art of dining, and it has never been out of print since first publication in 1825. The philosophy of Epicurus stands behind every page, and the simplest meal satisfied Brillat-Savarin, as long as it was executed with artistry.

 

The sometimes wordy text is filled with aphorisms and axioms, and it has been endlessly analyzed and quoted. In a series of meditations that have the rhythm of an age of leisured reading and the confident pursuit of educated pleasures. Brillant-Savarin expounds on the delights of eating, which he considers a science, with witty anecdotes and observations such as:

“Those persons who suffer from indigestion, or who become drunk, are utterly ignorant of the true principles of eating and drinking.”

“A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.”

“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”

“The pleasure of the table belongs to all ages, to all conditions, to all countries, and to all eras; it mingles with all other pleasures, and remains at last to console us for their departure.”

 

This edition of The Physiology of Taste was reproduced by permission from the volume in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, a Revolutionary War patriot and successful printer and publisher, the Society is a research library documenting the life of Americans from the colonial era through 1876. The Society collects, preserves, and makes available as complete a record as possible of the printed materials from the early American experience. The cookbook collection includes approximately 1,100 volumes.

About the Author

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was a French lawyer and politician who gained fame as an epicure and gastronome. In his early years, he studied law, chemistry, and medicine, and practiced law in his hometown of Dijon. At the start of the French Revolution, he was a deputy to the National Constituent Assembly where he acquired some limited fame. Eventually, however, he left France for political asylum in Switzerland, with a bounty on his head. He later lived in the United States for several years, earning his living by giving French and violin lessons. He returned to France and served as a judge of the Court of Cassation, publishing several works on law and political economy. Along with Grimod, he effectively founded the entire genre of the gastronomic essay, and The Physiology of Taste, published just a month before his death in 1825, is his most famous work.

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