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The Physiology of Taste: Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy
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The Physiology of Taste: Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,121 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
Brillat-Savarin (1783-1833) made famous the aphorism, "Tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you who you are." He believed that food defines a nation.
Paperback, 443 pages
Published December 31st 1978 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P (first published 1825)
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La Physiologie du goût est un ouvrage écrit en entier pour le plaisir du lecteur. Ce livre Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, paru au début du XIXème siècle, fourmille de d'anecdotes piquantes, de bons mots, de plaisanteries savoureuses, d'allusions savantes et autres éclats pétillants propre à mettre le lecteur en appétit au propre comme au figuré. Pour l'auteur, la gastronomie est une science morale qui se tient non loin de la politique.

C'est la gastronomie qui inspecte les hommes et les choses,

I began the book wary of Fisher's very heavy hand - she is an obtrusive editor, needing to insert herself and her personal recollections often. (Nearly every brief section of the book ends with her footnotes, which are called "The Translator's Glosses.") So when Brillat-Savarin mentions black pudding, she adds in an early gloss: "In Paris spicy boudin used to be served on Christmas the larger cafes of Burgundy...the prostitutes would snatch at it, daintily of course but with avidity, as
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
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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.
Mar 10, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cooks
Shelves: getsyouthinking, food
lots of interesting shit...
Barry King
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
J.P. Bary
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 14, 2013 rated it liked it
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
May 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: gastronomy, food, culture
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
Aug 21, 2015 added it
Shelves: essays
Here, you might think, is a book about food, but to say that is to miss the point entirely. While it's mostly about food-- and how nice it is to drink a cup of coffee as Brillat-Savarin pontificates about coffee, or to enjoy a plate of pasta with truffles as he extols their virtues-- it's really something much deeper.

Brillat-Savarin, as a man of the Enlightenment, was interested in formulating a theory of gastronomy that also allowed for ramblings and musings about sleep, dreams, death, medicine
Jul 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
erica wissick
Aug 03, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Petter Olsson
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mark Palmieri
Nov 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 12, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food, non-fiction
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...
Aug 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Belongs on every cooks bookshelf.
Probably on every chefs bookshelf as far as I understand.
Murf Reeves
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
Robert Esquivel Jr
Nov 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: food
"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
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
Amy M
Aug 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
A.R. Beckert
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book years ago at the recommendation of a writing professor. She was visiting a friend abroad, found it in their collection, and admitted to us she stole it to bring home.

Do yourself a humongous favor and watch Agatha Christie's Poirot, the TV series, in between chapters. It's much more entertaining if you have David Suchet's portrayal of the character in your head as the author's voice... talking pretentiously with that perfectly groomed mustache in the way of everything he tries
Very entertaining, very opinionated (these things perhaps go hand in hand). You probably won't read a cookery book that's so unique and insane. It's really like good dinner conversation, which is something the Professor does relay to us. If you have a giant eel and want to get priests to talk dirty, he's got the recipe here. If you want to know what the sixth sense of humans is (no it's not seeing dead people), you'll just have to read this cookbook/science of eating book.
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The father of gastronomy, this book breaks down how we eat, crave, taste and prepare. The foodies' "I Ching" on taste and a traditional chef's go to. Written in the mid-19th century, many of its descriptions are still very relevant today. I highly recommend this to the cook, chef and foodie at heart.
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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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“The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a star.” 151 likes
“To invite people to dine with us is to make ourselves responsible for their well-being for as long as they are under our roofs.” 19 likes
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