Dan's Reviews > The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food

The Table Comes First by Adam Gopnik
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's review
Nov 16, 2011

it was ok
Read in November, 2011

Adam Gopnik is my favorite current writer of nonfiction. He's brilliant and often funny. He loves his family, France, and food. Though not overtly political, he has liberal sensibilities. He has a wide range of interests in sync with my own, including urbanism, sports, classic novels, and music from Bach to the Stones. And he has interesting insights into aspects of daily life that most of us take for granted. So there are always some great nuggets in anything he writes, but this book is a disappointment. For starters, he takes far too intellectual and abstract an approach to earthy subjects; there are too many food critics here and not enough cooks and eaters. The structure of the book is bizarre: each section begins with a tangent to "the table" and ends with an e-mail to Elizabeth Pennell, a 19th century food writer (I get the idea - it's a way to comment on how radically cooking & dining have changed - but it comes off as strained). And way too many of the paragraphs have the same structure: opening abstract statement (usually about appetite or desire), some USA Today-style pop psychosociology ("We" want this or that), and closing bons mots based on more abstractions. If I'd ordered this book in a restaurant, I'd have sent it back to the kitchen.
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Kari Macknight Dearborn I feel this is my precise take away of this book. Nicely done.

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