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By Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson

French food is this type of staple in our figuring out of excellent nutrition that we overlook the injuries of heritage that ended in its production. Accounting for flavor brings those "accidents" to the skin, illuminating the magic of French food and the secret in the back of its ancient improvement. Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson explains how the nutrients of France turned French cuisine.

This momentous culinary trip starts with Ancien Régime cookbooks and ends with twenty-first-century cooking courses. It takes us from Carême, the "inventor" of recent French food within the early 19th century, to most sensible cooks this present day, akin to Daniel Boulud and Jacques Pépin. now not a historical past of French delicacies, Accounting for flavor makes a speciality of the folks, areas, and associations that experience made this delicacies what it really is this day: a privileged motor vehicle for nationwide identification, a version of cultural ascendancy, and a pivotal website the place perform and function intersect. With resources as quite a few because the novels of Balzac and Proust, interviews with modern cooks resembling David Bouley and Charlie Trotter, and the movie Babette's banquet, Ferguson maps the cultural box that buildings culinary affairs in France after which exports its an important constituents. What's extra, way past meals, the problematic connections among food and nation, among neighborhood perform and nationwide identification, light up the idea that of tradition itself.

To Brillat-Savarin's recognized dictum—"Animals fill themselves, humans consume, clever humans by myself know the way to eat"—Priscilla Ferguson provides, and Accounting for flavor exhibits, how the really clever additionally recognize why they devour the best way they do.

“Parkhurst Ferguson has her nostril within the correct position, and an infectious lust for her topic that makes this trawl throughout the historical past and cultural value of French food—from French Revolution to Babette’s banquet through Balzac’s suppers and Proust’s madeleines—a gratifying meal of various courses.”—Ian Kelly, occasions (UK)

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Example text

Just as the written word fixes speech, so culinary discourse secures the transitory experiences of taste. It figures the material as intellectual, imaginative, symbolic, aesthetic. These representations socialize food, not the dishes and meals of culinary practice. The texts of culinary discourse convert culinary production into a truly cultural phenomenon. Where cooking humanizes food by making it fit for human consumption, cuisine socializes cooking. The culinary text reconfigures an individual activity as a collective enterprise.

With time, imported elements—say, any of the foodstuffs brought to Europe from the Americas—become an integral part of the cuisine in question. If one looks far enough back in the culinary history of any country, the most “authentic” foodstuffs are apt to be a good deal less traditional than alleged. Can we imagine any European cuisine without potatoes? Yet the potato came from South America in the early sixteenth century and was first regarded by Europeans as an ornamental plant! Acceptance as a foodstuff took a couple of centuries.

So far as I can tell, the book has never been out of print in French since its original publication, and there have been an astonishing number of editions in English. ” Its semimedical title notwithstanding, the Physiology of Taste civilizes eating. Moreover, it socializes food, and it does so by recounting in story after story our social relations with food. Brillat-Savarin works from the premise that taste varies across social groups. For all his oldfashioned mixture of genial anecdote and semi-mock instruction, he steadfastly fixes the reader’s attention on the social settings of food, particularly its consumption.

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