Monday, November 13, 2006

The Physiology of Taste

Come hither gourmets, sybarites, sensualists, hedonists, epicureans, pleasure seekers and bon vivants. Celebrated author, french gourmet and lawyer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said that living well was an act of intelligence by which we choose that which pleases us over that which does not. I do agree and would propose that living well is an intellectual adventure as well as a sensual one. It is the act of making every moment of our short but glorious lives into a moment of pleasure, wonder and poetry. It is taking all the little things we do, from the most mundane act of washing dishes to the most divine act of being in love, and investing our minds and bodies into making them works of art.

This book is recommended reading for any bon vivant or gourmet and is probably the best book ever written about food and philosophy. There are detailed scientific and anthropological descriptions on everything from chocolate and digestion and both Brillat-Savarin and M.F.K. Fisher are generous with anecdotes and recipes.

From Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's book, "The Physiology of Taste" Or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy, translated from French by M.F.K. Fisher


I. The universe is nothing without the things that live in it, and everything that lives, eats.

II. Animals feed themselves; men eat; but only wise men know the art of eating.

III. The destiny of nations depends on how they nourish themselves.

IV. Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are.

V. The Creator, while forcing men to eat in order to live, tempts him to do so with appetite and then rewards him with pleasure.

VI. Good living is an act of intelligence by which we chose things which have an agreeable taste rather than those which do not.

VII. The pleasure of the table are for every man, of every land, and no matter of what place in history or society; they can be a part of all his other pleasures, and they last the longest, to console him when he has outlived the rest.

VIII. The table is the only place where a man is never bored for the first hour.

IX. The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a star.

X. Men who stuff themselves and grow tipsy know neither how to eat nor how to drink.

XI. The proper progression of courses in a dinner is from the most substantial to the lightest.

XII. The proper progression of wines or spirits is from the mildest to the headiest and most aromatic.

XIII. It is heresy to insist that we must not mix wines: a man's palate can grow numb and react dully to even the best bottle, after the third glass from it.

XIV. A dinner that ends without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.

XV. We can learn to be cooks, but we must be born knowing how to roast.

XVI. The most indispensable quality of a cook is promptness, and it should be that of the diner as well.

XVII. A host who makes all his guests wait for one latecomer is careless of their well-being.

XVIII. He who plays host without giving his personal care to the repast is unworthy of having friends to invite to it.

XIX. The mistress of the house should always make sure that the coffee is good, and the master that the wines are of the best.

XX. 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.

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