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The Physiology of Taste or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  767 ratings  ·  68 reviews
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 meditation ...more
Paperback, 464 pages
Published September 11th 2000 by Counterpoint (first published 1825)
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Sketchbook
Cooking, the French believe, can lead to diplomatic success. The gourmet, it is said, merges the aesthetic w the pragmatic, and is usually a humanist. To the French, the sequence of dishes (w wines) is as important as the notes that follow on a music sheet. Only in recent years have some Americans & Brits felt the same (Puritanism). And only in France would a chef kill himself over a culinary failure : Vatel in 1671 and the #1 at Relais de Porquerolles, in 1967, after losing stars in the Mic ...more
Mitch
Mar 14, 2012 Mitch rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Food Lovers
A classic treatment of gastronomic pleasure in an elevated, yet fluid style that delights and demonstrates with equal power. The Everyman's edition is well-bound, elegantly typeset and a joy to read. I recommend this book to anyone who believes that eating is more than just a source of sustenance and enjoys plumbing the depths of philosophy to redeem even what might otherwise seem mundane and plumbless.
Hesper
I'm either too hungry or not hungry enough to write a proper review. For now, two things are certain: 1) this is THE gourmand's bible; and 2), it is impossible not to fall a little in love with both the author and his translator.
clara
Mar 10, 2007 clara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cooks
Shelves: food, getsyouthinking
lots of interesting shit...
julie
i've been reading jean-anthelme brillat-savarin's physiology of taste (or transcendental gastronomy). just his name should give you a bit of a taste of what a stuck-up, pretentious prat he is. and tho' i am largely skimming (what else can one do via an eReader? i can't take reading seriously unless i can scribble in the margins), i went back and forth between eye-rolling and being provoked to ponderous deep thoughts to the occasional actual (and thus no kittens killed) laugh out loud. because th ...more
Sam
So far it's brilliant. Not only Brillat-Savarin's antic prose style, but also the occasional interventions from the translator. The relationship between the two recalls the relationship between the narrator and the protagonist in Don Quijote Part II. Sample quote:

"Among small birds, beyond all doubt the best is "beccafico".

it becomes at least as fat as the red-throat or the ortolan, and nature has besides given it a slight bitterness, and a peculiar and exquisite perfume, which enables it to fil
...more
Kim
This book changed my relationship to food and pleasure and sensual pleasure. Each chapter was a joyful new world of unheard-of creativity and adventure. I grew up in a home with good food, but standard American dishes were the staple. I love ribs and grilled cheese, but this is another world entirely.

I will never forget the night when I read the chapter on chocolate ... it was wonderful. Brillat-Savarin can, with just his words, evoke the pleasure of tasting a nicely roast bird, or the complex
...more
Jason
May 30, 2010 Jason rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jason by: MFK Fisher
So far, this book has been witty in that way that words themselves used to have wit. translated by MFK Fisher, it also avoids any overly ornate grammar that usually plagues European stuff prior to (and including) the 20th century.

In short, this book is an early look at western cookery and ingredients that were relatively new to the scene - coffee, chocolate, sugar, New World birds, etc. It's very timely in its publishing as to run parallel to the founding of the USA. Feels simulataneously like a
...more
erica
There should be a tried-to-read option. Promptly placed a permanent book mark after succession of yawns and finishing the section on "Hunting Luncheons".

Trudging through the chapters was similar to a tortuous dinner date. What sparked off as a promising evening with a piquant companion and much lauded fare-for-thought, turns out to be bland and inducing mild indigestion.

Brillat-Savarin would have probably made a better dinner companion than author. Maundering while masticating obstructs the ph
...more
Leila
This is a very entertaining book. Important things I've learnt so far: Be a punctual cook. Never let your guests become hungry. Also, be a punctual guest! Use the best ingredients you can always, and especially when you have guests over. Also, love Brillat-Savarin's quote: Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are. Beware that this book contains many unsubstantiated assumptions about people. Otherwise, his perfectionism when it comes to food is very inspiring.
A. Carroll
"The Physiology of Taste" is one of those books that most people either love or hate. Personally, I hated it. Brillot-Savarin’s book is one of the best known early examples of food writing, but it is unlike later books in that genre. One main reason is that Brillot-Savarin rambles—a lot. He inserts entire chapters on things that have nothing to do with food—rest, death, and so forth. He also repeatedly tells long stories about his personal exploits—outsmarting some Englishmen at a drinking game, ...more
Mark Palmieri
A bit long-winded at times, but overall, a fantastic book. I really enjoyed all the actual life stories Savarin told. He's quite a writer and has plenty of interesting phrases. Or maybe that's more to do with MK Fisher, the famous translator.
Savarin inspired me as I'm sure he's inspired 1,000's of cooks over the last 100+ years.

What a player.
Colin
A historical curio, but I struggled to find much value beyond that. Brillat-Savarin's voice is that of an opinionated, pompous, self-aggrandizing bore. He's funny at times, in a laughing-at-him sort of way, and there are plenty of good, if pointless, quotes in here - but useful information? Not so much...
Robert Esquivel Jr
This book was given to me by one of my best good friends & it is just a to die for read. It seems as if he speaks from deep inside the mind of a chef.
Barry King
There really is no way someone in this day and age can review this book. It's a classic, and so ingrained in our culture that it would be silly to do so, almost like critiquing "Hamlet" by Billy S.

In brief, it's the collected writings of the man who came to define gourmandism, and did so while weathering the excesses and disappointments of the French Revolution as an exile. The first seven-eighths are interesting more as a history study, and with the little gems hidden throughout that bring a pe
...more
Christiane
According to Amazon this is “the most famous book about food ever written.” I did not know that but it was recommended to be by someone who does know food, and even I (a complete non-cook) have heard of M.F.K. Fisher, who translated this edition. First published in France in 1825 and continuously in print ever since, this book is still remarkably interesting and relevant today; I especially enjoyed his chapters on diet and weight. For example, he writes: “Intemperance has for a very long time ca ...more
J.P. Bary
Aug 22, 2013 J.P. Bary rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Foodies, Philosophers and historians
Recommended to J.P. by: Victoria deBary
this review covers the 2009 edition published by the Everyman's Library division of Knopf. I ordered a copy of it only because the one I had used previously was somehow mislaid or lent to someone who failed to return it. I can't remember exactly when I last referred to the book (it can't have been that long ago), but rather than wait for the old worn paperback to turn up, I thought it might be nice to see what an updated hardcover could provide. I wasn't disappointed. This edition was published ...more
Jason
I enjoy Brillat-Savarin very much -- but Fisher's annoying commentary and inability to refrain from constantly inserting herself into the text make this particular translation difficult for me to read or recommend. Hence, the one-star rating for an otherwise seminal text in food literature.
Charlotte
The perfect bus book as it is in small sections. I read a translation with excellent and amusing notes by MFK Fisher, and like me she was sort of in love with the charming man who wrote this. His sojourn in the United States during the French Revolution resulted in a funny and informative treatise on the turkey (worth a re-read). A remarkable character, Monsieur Brillat-Savarin.
Noni
Even though it was made in 1825, the writings are still relevant. Brillat-Savarin reminds us to be grateful for the tastes of naturally grown food which I think is extremely important to remember when so many of us eat mindlessly.
Amy M
This is an incredibly engaging and humorous book that introduced the concept of the gourmand to the world. There were many times that I laughed out loud at some of Brillat-Savarin's characterizations, but there are also some cautionary tales (like the young girl on the vinegar diet)that are disturbing and educational. This book is fascinating in that it gives quite a bit of insight into socializing and eating in 18th century France. I highly recommend if you are a gourmand yourself, and even if ...more
Petter Olsson
I read this book because of two simple chapters about Obesity and Thinness. It is amazing that this long time ago they already knew that carbohydrates were bad for you. Many time people will refer to "The Letter of Corpulence" as the first low-carb diet but that would be a mistake in my mind as that is exactly what is advocated in this book. The way this book is written gave me many chuckles and to see how ideals of bodies have changed over time. Strongly recommend this book.
Nicole
Jan 09, 2013 Nicole rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: foodies
An enjoyable book full of timeless ideas and bonmots to which one can relate even in the 21st century, e.g. the chapter about the end of the world. Not being a believer in "Armageddon according to Mayans" I found great joy in his witty remarks on this phenomenon, especially because three days before the 21.12.2012 I had just about enough of it.
All the talk about food made me constantly hungry but since I have started this book I somewhat enjoy and appreciate more what I eat.
Chrissie
This was a delightful window into the 19th century and the world of "gourmandaise". I loved Brillat Savarin's boundless curiosity and his true appreciated of food for what it should be. And last but not least, loved his anecdotes throughout the book. I recommend it for those either studying food or who have just a love of food overall.
Steve
Just started, got through the 25 or so pp of prelim material - plan on hitting a chapter or so a night. they're short enough, and already I see how charming and entertaining this book (and Fisher's notes) is.

Worth reading just for the MFK Fisher notes. Some long, boring stretches - but some great pieces on dinners as well.
Michele
For foodies and those interested in early-19th century history - French and American. Brillat-Savarin was a gourmand and an empirical thinker. The essays vary from his take on what constitutes proper nutrition to a delightful telling of the breakfast - and lunch and dinner - he prepares for his elderly cousins.
haley
The father of food writing, I'm enjoying reading this in the original french (thank you, french degree), as the french language inexorably leads itself to more poetic and sensual descriptions of the pleasures of eating. The translation would be pretty good, too, if you're into culinary history.
Krista
Grāmatas lasīšana prasīja daudz laika (iespējams, specifiskā satura dēļ, bet varbūt, ka pie vainas visi citi darbi).
Tā bija ļoti izglītojoša un aizraujoša vienlaicīgi - pārsteidzoši, cik daudz laika agrāk cilvēki ir veltījuši ēdienreizēm.
Alwa
Funny, light, clever, interesting, and generally all-around charming (plus a few artery-clogging recipes)—better than I was expecting! And I didn't even read the M.F.K. Fisher translation (which now I definitely have to track down).
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Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French lawyer and politician, and gained fame as an epicure and gastronome. He was born in the town of Belley, Ain, where the Rhone River then separated France from Savoy, to a family of lawyers. He studied law, chemistry and medicine in Dijon in his early years and thereafter practiced law in his hometown. In 1789, at the opening of the French Revolution, he was s ...more
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