Friday, November 17, 2006

Helsingborg & the Winter of a Bon Vivant

My article about Helsingborg has been published in the South of Sweden Magazine. Read the full article below or visit to download the pdf version of issue 4 of the magazine.

The Winter of a Bon Vivant

Helsingborg, the pearl of the Sound, is perhaps best loved for its summer pleasures when the sun shines on lively festivals, waterside eateries and miles of some of the best urban beaches in Scandinavia. But with stunning scenery, cultural riches and an epicurean flavor, the thriving “little big city” is also a winter wonderland for bon vivants as Laurel Williams reveals.

Discovering a rare blend
Helsingborg is one of Sweden’s most beautiful seaside cities, commanding the narrowest point of the Öresund Sound, a little bottleneck or ‘hals’ between Sweden and Denmark from which Helsingborg gets its name. This is Sweden’s closest link to the continent and, like the rest of Skåne, was Danish longer than it has been Swedish and that lends a tangible cosmopolitan whiff to the atmosphere. At once sophisticated and flamboyant, Helsingborg has become a magnet for young, active creatives and lovers of style and gastronomy. One thousand years of history and recent awards such as Sweden’s finest city center, Sweden’s best music city and the city with the best business climate for entrepreneurs in Sweden, offer a rare blend of the ancient and modern that beguiles visitors and locals alike.

Helsingborg is easy walkable and with the Sound to the west and the heights of the Landborgen ridge running parallel to the east, orienting yourself is effortless. A good starting point is Stortorget, the main square lined with upscale shops, restaurants, hotels and the impressive City Hall. Stand in the middle of the square and take in the view of the busy ferry harbor at one end and at the other, the magnificent steps that rise up to the Kärnan tower that has stood guard in Helsingborg for over 600 years. Climb up the ancient steps in the tower’s 4½-meter thick walls for brilliant views of the Sound and the menagerie of boats frisking about or heading out upon the seven seas.

Kullagatan, the oldest pedestrian street in Sweden, winds north away from the square and deposits you at the concert hall and the theatre. Beyond is the North Harbor, fringed by delightful restaurants and cafés with immense windows perfect for gazing at all the boats and people passing by. A welcome surprise there is a row of heated benches outside the marina building. Just south of the main square, discover the charming cobblestone streets around the beautiful St. Mary’s Church. In this, the oldest part of Helsingborg, almost every dwelling has its own ghost story. Ivy creeps prettily over the red bricks of St. Mary’s, the Danish Gothic masterwork that was completed in the 1400’s and that took 100 years to build. Bruksgatan leads pedestrians further south and eventually to the exotic, vibrant district of Helsingborg where the currents of the world swirl in dozens of languages around the daily fruit, vegetable and flower market.

All on a winter’s day
Winter is the perfect season to take in the unique wealth of culture that Helsingborg offers. A generous donation from resident industry mogul Henry Dunker, famous for his Tretorn galoshes, boots and tennis balls, fixes Helsingborg’s status as a flourishing cultural center for years to come. Go to Dunkers Kulturhus for its striking architecture, expansive views of the North Harbor and a bounty of concerts, theatre and exhibitions of local history, Nordic mythology and modern art. Take moment to stop in at the gift shop for some of the most unique and genuine souvenirs of a visit to the city including Tretorn boots and other rubbery novelties. The nationally renowned city theatre warms hearts during the dark winter months with the cabaret “Brel” in homage to Jacques Brel’s life and immortal songs. Take in a symphony at the concert hall or take a stroll in the magnificent gardens of the Fredriksdal open-air museum or Sofiero castle. Look for the juniper-hedge maze at Sofiero, ironically a puzzle in itself to find, and ramble down the ravine to the seaside where swans bob aimlessly about. Lately named Sweden’s most beautiful park, the grounds of Sofiero play host to flower festivals, art exhibits, rock concerts, Shakespearean plays and classic car shows during the spring and summer but is utterly tranquil in winter.

Stroll along Kullagatan and Bruksgatan for some superb shopping. All the usual chains are represented but the real gems are the many small clothing boutiques, interior design shops, galleries and cafés. This region is rich with high quality clay and you will find plenty of unique handmade stoneware available in Helsingborg. Visit the wonderful Gastronomibutiken gourmet delicatessen in the Tågaborg neighborhood where locally sourced goodies rub shoulders with European delicacies from the best producers. Their own fresh foie gras pâtés soaked in grappa, cognac or rum are incomparable. Many locals also make regular pilgrimages to south-side institution Tasty House where towers of baklava compete with exotic candy and, most importantly, row upon row of freshly roasted nuts.

Stop in at a cozy café for a cup of Zoégas dark roast gourmet coffee. The Zoégas beans have been roasted Helsingborg since 1881 and on roasting days when the wind is right the whole town smells like one big fragrant coffee shop. Take the waters with a glass of the local iron-rich Ramlösa mineral water that Carl von Linné raved about and that has found its way onto water menus around the world. The holiday season will find you nibbling at crisp gingerbread cookies or golden saffron buns washed down with piping hot mugs of sweet and spicy ‘glögg’. Helsingborg also boasts no less than three gourmet chocolate shops. Sofie Choklad and Peter Beier Chokolade keep their chocolate fountains gushing on opposite sides of the St. Mary’s church and Chocolatte on the Sundstorget square offers a unique white hot chocolate laced with fresh lime. For cappuccinos whipped up by Sweden’s best baristas head to the K&Co café off Kullagatan. Don’t leave town without buying some gourmet chocolates or Zoégas dark roasted coffee beans to stuff stockings with.

Bundle up and take a winter walk in the beautiful Pålsjö forest among towering beeches and oaks. A most romantic tunnel through the ancient hornbeam hedge near fairy-pink Pålsjö castle leads you to stunning views of the Sound and Denmark. You can link in here to a walking path that follows the edge of the Landborgen ridge and stretches nearly 15 kilometers from Sofiero in the north to the medieval Raus Church in the south, past sumptuous homes, secret gardens and along the valley of Råå Creek.

As the winter sun sinks lower make your way to the to the Påljsöbad sauna and bathhouses, set on stilts in the Sound, for a wholesome and magical conclusion to your day. It is a cherished tradition in Helsingborg to gaze at the sunset over Denmark from the sauna windows, emerging only to shimmy down steps for the occasional swift dip in the refreshing (read icy) water.

Hometown soccer hero Henrik Larsson is back in Helsingborg after a spectacular international career and has led Helsingborg’s own team, HIF, straight to the top classes of Swedish football. If they play their way into the Royal League then be sure to catch a game at Olympia, one of Sweden’s nicest outdoor sports arenas.

Eating, Drinking & Being Merry
It would be foolish to go to Helsingborg and not indulge in the gastronomical delights. Helsingborg’s reputation for offering Skåne’s best dining can hardly be disputed. It is home to the likes of GASTRO, NIKLAS HELSINGBORG and Sofiero Slottsrestaurang, three of the top four restaurants in Skåne and among the best in the country. The traditional Swedish Christmas buffet is served in grand style at Sofiero during the month of December and it is a most marvelous feast of homemade Christmas delicacies in regal surroundings. The White Guide recently proclaimed GASTRO the best restaurant in Skåne and the Christmas buffet stays true to the Gastro concept of preparing locally sourced fish, game and vegetables to perfection, capturing the essence of Skåne’s traditional cuisine.

Celebrate the holidays like royalty at the baroque Örenäs Castle, set on a bluff in Glumslöv, just 15 kilometers south of Helsingborg. Sweden’s youngest castle (a 92-year-old whippersnapper) houses a hotel and restaurant that hosts a Christmas buffet complete with a small orchestra to entertain guests. This is also the setting of an opulent Twelfth Night ball in January where ladies in rustling gowns and their tuxedoed consorts dance and glitter in the ballroom. The castle grounds are lovely and afford vast views of the Sound and the little island of Ven. The surrounding hills and valleys offer some Skåne’s premiere sledding if snow is forthcoming. The most enduring attraction in the area must be the magnificent Örenäs passage grave nearby. Several people at a time can creep into the large, 5000-year-old grave chamber but bring a flashlight and perhaps some candles for dramatic effect. Below the castle is the diminutive fishing village of Ålabodarna, “the eel shacks” where eel fishermen traditionally lived. Walk along the only road past picture perfect houses, to the tiny harbor where in summertime Sweden’s smallest restaurant serves visitors through a window.

Step back in time in provincial Billeberga, 20 km southeast of Helsingborg, where an out of the way farm houses Farbror Elofs Skafferi (Uncle Elof’s Pantry). This is the most peculiar restaurant you may ever set foot in but the experience is unforgettable, especially at Christmastime. The entry to the country courtyard is laid with evergreen boughs that fill the air with rich, green perfume. Crossing the threshold sends you into a wacky museum of random kitsch, where grown men and women sit at rickety yard-sale tables and play with whatever toy or bauble they find there. Meanwhile one lucky member of each party tries to keep track on an old clipboard of how many shots of homemade Swedish schnapps everyone is having. There is a wall of bottles to choose from with handwritten labels announcing such unlikely flavors as saffron, dill, ginger, horseradish and clove. Novel and zany as it is, it is hard to understand what all the fuss is about, that is until you see the buffet spread. Long tables sag under the weight of 22 different kinds of homemade pickled herring, the best of the rest of traditional Swedish Christmas dishes and an enormous Italian feast. Save room for the silky little panna cottas. If you find a trinket that strikes your fancy you will probably be able to take it home. Just ask the waiter to put it on your bill.

If Christmas fare is wearing thin head back into town and straight to NIKLAS HELSINGBORG where the dashing young celebrity chef Niklas Ekstedt devises beautiful winter dishes that please all the senses. The epic wine list matches his Classic French and Mediterranean cuisine where you will detect masterful currents of experimentalism, reminiscent of his time at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, El Bulli in Barcelona and French Laundry in Yountville, California.

When you are hungry, New York style, book a table at Brooklyn on the square by St. Mary’s church. Inspired by the legendary Peter Luger’s steakhouse under the Brooklyn Bridge, Chef-Patron Rickard Persson serves whopping Porterhouse and New York strip steaks and lobsters. In the lofty and genteel rooms of the oldest restaurant in Sweden, now home to the Café le Fils du Rasoir, you can savor a monstrous, steaming bowl of French onion soup and other French classics. Come in from the cold at the new Copenhagen-style bistro and wine bar, Papi, just off Kullagatan. Designed by esteemed Danish architects Vandkust, the interior features cozy sofa niches where you can nestle in for lunch or glass of wine. On weekends devour wonderful brunches at Papi, Brooklyn, Sofiero or the restaurant in Dunkers.

The word gourmet originally meant wine taster and at Lagmark on Sundstorget you can live out this meaning at a new shrine to wine, the “Vinotek”, that allows guests to sample some of the world’s finest wines for a song. The long gallery of stainless steel and glass proffers 40 bottles of fine wine but the doyenne of the collection is the Chateau d’Yquem. A sip of this, the world’s most exclusive dessert wine, always seduces first-time tasters. “In 25 years I never sold a bottle and now I sell one or two a week,” proprietor Torbjörn Lagmark declares. Lagmark is a foodie mecca that also offers catering, cooking lessons, a gourmet deli and an array of dainty Swedish tapas dubbed gourmetas.

Bask in relaxed ambience at MeNTO on Kullagatan, notably Helsingborg’s only Cristal restaurant and where each dish includes something fresh off the grill. Your hosts, award-winning bartender Susann Nilsson and bartender/sommelier Ola Book dazzle with clever concoctions of fresh fruit and flavor fusions inspired by the finer cocktail trends of London. Try the Frisky Bison, an artful union of apple, pear, crushed mint and lemon that is utterly fresh or the lavish pineapple Flirtini spiked with Cointreau and topped up with champagne.

If the night is still young, follow the music to Mink behind St. Mary’s church. This is the place to dance till dawn and if the floor gets too crowded patrons are welcome to board the tables and the long (though narrow) bar and very regularly do. If you make a go at it then you will be happy to discover that the ceiling is low enough to help you keep your balance. Bar tenders do brisk business anyhow, nimbly serving drinks through the forest of twitching legs. The Tivoli in the venerable old station building by the ferry harbor is buzzing almost every night with live concerts, stand-up comedy and drag shows. A jazz club lurks under Kullagatan and at the Grand Hotel’s piano bar champagne cocktails flow to the tunes of Elton John and Robbie Williams.

A night on the town will leave you feeling that the 122,000 residents of Skåne’s second city love life and are determined to live it well. So come hither, bon vivants. When the winter sun sinks into the dark slice of Denmark and the sounds feasting and laughter float out from candlelit restaurants, the pearl of the sound is your oyster.

Local heroes share their best winter tips
Håkan Nilsson, Wine Consultant and Writer
“I love going to the Pålsjöbad sauna and bathhouses in the late afternoon. I take all my foreign visitors there for a sauna and a swim in the Sound. It is wonderfully relaxing and also happens to be the best hangover cure I know of.“

Niklas Ekstedt, Celebrity Chef and Owner of NIKLAS HELSINGBORG
“I go to the theatre and concerts and take winter walks at Sofiero and Fredriksdal. My favorite way to warm up is to visit one of Helsingborg’s three gourmet chocolatiers for a cup of delicious, rich hot chocolate.”

Johan Wissman, Silver Medalist at the 2006 European Athletic Championships and Swedish record holder in the 200-meter sprint
“During the winter you really just want to find a cozy place indoors and Helsingborg has lots of restaurants and coffee shops to suit every style. I like the restaurant and lounge, Bara Vara, and the 50’s style coffee shop Ebbas Fik on Bruksgatan that has giant cookies and big slices of cake.”

Getting there
By air
Ängelholm's airport is just a 30-minute drive from Helsingborg and has direct flights to and from Stockholm. Kastrup in Copenhagen and Sturup in Malmö serve international travelers.

By land
Drivers can follow the E6 north from Malmö (1 hour) or south from Gothenburg (2 ½ hours) and the E4 from Stockholm (7 ½ hours). Trains run several times a day from Malmö, Gothenburg and Stockholm and deliver you to Knutpunkten, the central station in Helsingborg where all the train, bus and ferry traffic meet.

By sea
The most enjoyable way to arrive in Helsingborg is, without a doubt, by ferryboat from Denmark. The flags of Kronborg, Hamlet’s famous castle, wave you off from Helsingör.

Where to stay
The Elite Hotel Mollberg on Stortorget is a classic address. The site has been a hotel since the 1300’s making it Sweden’s oldest and it also houses the oldest restaurant in Sweden, now home to the charming Café le Fils du Rasoir.

The Radisson SAS Grand Hotel in a beautiful 1920’s building on Stortorget houses an excellent restaurant and lounge, a piano bar, a chic coffee shop, an Italian trattoria and the divine Japanese city spa, Njuta.

Villa Thalassa, perched on the edge of the Landborgen ridge in the Pålsjö forest, is one Sweden’s most beautifully located hostels.

Farbror Elofs Skafferi in Billeberga provides quaint rooms for guests overwhelmed by the idea of returning to the real world too soon after dinner.

At Örenäs Castle ask for the rooms in the castle itself. They offer weekend packages and special deals for the Christmas buffet and the Twelfth Night ball.

Mark your calendar
December 3rd, Julskyltning
The shop owners in Helsingborg honor the Swedish tradition of unveiling the Christmas ornamentations of the shop windows on the first advent. White lights twinkle across town and candied almonds are roasted and sold on the corners.

December 7th, Port Wine Tasting
One of Sweden’s top wine experts, Håkan Nilsson, hosts a port wine tasting at bistro and bar Dahlberg on Stortorget.

December 8th-10th, Christmas at Fredriksdal
For an authentic Swedish Christmas market do not miss “Christmas at Fredriksdal”, where you can buy old fashioned candies, homemade delicacies and crafts in old shops on the exquisitely preserved rural village streets. The beautiful manor house and gardens date back to the 1700’s.

December 13th, Santa Lucia Day
Take part in one of Sweden’s most magical Christmas traditions on Santa Lucia Day’s festival of light. A candlelight procession of young girls dressed in white glides into St. Mary’s Church and spellbinds the audience with song. The procession and concert begin at 7 p.m. and are free.

December 14th, Symphony
The revered Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra pays tribute to Mozart’s life and travels with the symphony, “In the Masters Footsteps” at Helsingborg’s concert hall.

January 6th, Twelfth Night Ball
A black-tie affair at Örenäs Castle marks the traditional end of Christmas festivities.

January 19th-21st The Cod Festival
Helsingborg hosts its 28th Annual International Cod Festival, one of the largest international sea angling competition the world, with a prize table of 400,000 SEK and 50,000 SEK for the biggest cod (upped to 150,000 SEK if you can beat the all-time record of 25.3 kilos). The festival, which usually includes over 600 participants from 20 or more countries, takes place in the North Harbor. Contact Hans Elmroth and Margareta Andersson on or Lisa Olsson on for more information.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Buying Time

My second article offering practical advice about living in Sweden has been published in the South of Sweden magazine. Read the full article below or visit to download the pdf version of issue 4 of the magazine. Ironically, almost immediately after penning this article we decided that it was time to move. So the search is on for our new home in Helsingborg and I have found my own advice very helpful, even printing out copies of the article to take to showings so I remember which questions to ask.

Buying Time

So you dream of owning your own apartment in Sweden. Visions dance in your head of snug holiday gatherings where you can feel confident about knocking in a nail wherever you please to hang the mistletoe. But before you start sending out the invitations know that buying an apartment here is a complicated affair.

The first thing to get to grips with when you set out to buy an apartment in Sweden, is that you do not actually get to buy the apartment. What you actually buy is the right to use the apartment for all eternity, as opposed to renting where your landlord is permitted to evict you with three months notice. In fact you become your own landlord, in a sense, because you also become a part owner of the whole building without actually owning any specific piece of it.

When you buy the right to use your apartment, you are also required to join the cooperative housing society of the building, to whom you will pay a joining fee and a monthly rent, on top of your loan payments on the purchase. This may seem perplexing, even outrageous, to a newcomer but any Swede will till you that it is all very straightforward; the monthly fee pays for property taxes, the upkeep of the building itself, the grounds, shared areas such as the laundry room, stairwell, garage and often covers services including water utility and garbage collection.

These housing societies function much like small countries. Each dwelling is given one vote at a yearly meeting to decide who will be on the board of directors and handle the finances and day-to-day decisions of the cooperative. The board must also approve your membership before you are allowed to join but it is uncommon that anyone is denied that right. Many organizations even hold informative courses for prospective apartment buyers to help them understand the logic of this system.

The best places to start looking for new apartments up for sale are on the websites of some the nationwide housing cooperative organizations such as HSB, Riksbyggen or SBC. You can also contact a real estate agent to help you in your search or check the paper or Internet for older apartments sold on the private market.

Go to as many showings as you can to get an idea of what the market is like and find out what similar apartments in the area or in the same building have sold for. Be aware that when an agent invites you to view an apartment, another 15 prospective buyers may be there at the same time. If you decide to buy the apartment, these are the people you will be bidding against. Many apartments sell for a good sight more than the original asking price in places where demand is high, that is to say, in almost every Swedish city. So prepare yourself for a nail-biter when the bidding starts.

Take your time in the apartment, checking the kitchen and bathroom carefully, and be on the alert for any signs of water damage or thin, poorly soundproofed walls. Ask about the condition of the roof, the heating system, the elevator, the plumbing, the electrical wiring and the windows of the building. Do not forget to ask about parking options and be sure to confirm with the agent or owner that the appliances you see in the apartment will still be there when you move in. Inspect the apartment and all of the shared areas including the attic, basement, laundry room, garage and stairwell. As the buyer you are responsible for making sure your observations get recorded on the official inspection document before you move in.

Get a copy of the annual report that each housing society is required to publish and read it to be certain that the cooperative is financially stable and well-managed. Check with the agent or the board to make sure that the previous owner does not have outstanding debts with the apartment as collateral. Ask for the building plans of the apartment so you can check the location of wiring, plumbing and bearing walls. You want to know before you buy if your bold plans for dropping walls, to make room for that competition-size billiards table, are feasible.

Finally, take out a home insurance policy that has a specific clause just for the special housing cooperative situation. Unlike renters, members of housing cooperatives have extensive maintenance responsibility for their dwellings.

As is often the case in Sweden, there are innumerable regulations specifically governing the sale and ownership of apartments. Refer to your municipal housing authorities and municipal consumer guidance office for all the details. And when you have run the gauntlet and emerged unscathed shock your new neighbors by throwing a grand old housewarming party, and inviting them all to come.

American ex-pat Laurel Williams lives in Helsingborg and has spent the past 11 years living, studying and working in Sweden. She is currently an English Copywriter at a B2B marketing agency and a Journalist. Having bought, sold and rented several flats in Sweden she offers some tips to first-timers.

A Place to Call "Hem"

My article on how to go about renting an apartment in Sweden has been published in the new South of Sweden magazine. Read the full article below or visit to download the digital version of issue 3 of the magazine.

A place to call ‘hem’

Much is made of the housing shortage in Swedish cities, and rightly so. The waiting lists for rentals are long and empty apartments scarce. Armed with some choice information, however, finding and settling in to your new home in Sweden should go as smoothly as slicing cheese with your brilliant new cheese-slicer.

Apartment housing in Sweden falls into three categories – vintage buildings with high ceilings and old tile stoves, sterile high rises from the Million Program or slick, fashionable new structures. Start your search for a room of your own by checking with the municipal housing exchanges or go directly to the companies who own rental buildings in your area. You will be placed on the waiting list but should also register your interest in each set of rooms that appeals to you. It is often revealed how many others have registered their interest and how long the person who gets first crack at it has been on the waiting list.

Out of curiosity, I recently looked at a modest 4-room apartment in central Helsingborg to see what an average waiting period might currently amount to. Ninety-two other people were also interested in that particular item and the number of days that the pole position apartment seeker had been on the waiting list was an alarming 12,845. Yes, that makes for just over 35 years! So, to earn eternal gratitude from your offspring, place children on every available waiting list as soon as they have got a personal number. If this seems tedious, you can always consider private housing agencies. They will charge a fee, but only if they successfully find you a new home.

The best strategy is word-of-mouth, so make everyone you meet aware of the fact that you are looking for an apartment. Place a wanted ad but if you include the word ‘hittelön’ i.e. reward, be prepared for people who expect to be bribed with a large illegal sum in exchange for the contract. The demand for housing far exceeds supply in most Swedish cities, which has given rise to an elaborate system involving (illegal) payment of rewards or ‘key money’ to bribe landlords and tenants.

Ideally, you are looking for a first-hand contract. Renting from another tenant compromises some of your rights. First-hand contracts are difficult to get and once you have one you can use it as a bargaining chip in a subsequent trade.

When you have secured an apartment, make sure you get a contract that documents your monthly rent and what is included in it. Get a checklist from the landlord that inventories existing damage to the apartment. This protects you from having to pay for the water stain on the oak floor from the previous tenant’s turtle tank.

The standard of quality in your average Swedish apartment is rather high and the building owners are required to freshen things up regularly. If you are made to suffer peeling paint, moldy bathrooms or the malfunction of essential equipment such as the refrigerator or toilet, your landlord is required to fix it.

You are allowed to paint and put up new wallpaper in your apartment but structural changes are grounds for eviction. And it is wise to talk to your landlord before you pry open that can of ‘solar flare orange’ paint. If you choose colors that do not sit well with your landlord, or if your work is less than professional, you may be required to pay for restoring normality when you move out.

Above all, pay your rent on time, follow the laws of the laundry room, avoid tap dancing after 10 p.m. and put up a friendly note to warn your neighbors of imminent partying. If you are a nuisance, your landlord is permitted to evict you by giving three months notice.

A good place to get advice if problems arise is the Swedish Union of Tenants called ‘Hyresgästföreningen’. They help you assert your rights as a tenant and assist you in the ‘Hyresnämden’ rent tribunal that exists solely to settle disputes among renters and landlords.

One last word of advice – if you do manage to snag an apartment with those beautiful tile stoves, resist the temptation to light up a crackling blaze until you get the landlord’s blessing. Most specimens are merely for show these days, but colonize them with a motley collection of candles and you can still enjoy a warm glow.

American ex-pat Laurel Williams lives in Helsingborg and has spent the past 11 years living, studying and working in Sweden. She is currently an English Copywriter at a B2B marketing agency and a Journalist. Having bought, sold and rented several flats in Sweden she offers some tips to first-timers.

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.