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The Rituals of Dinner: Visser, Margaret (Anglais) Broché – 1 juillet 1992

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With an acute eye and an irrepressible wit, Margaret Visser takes a fascinating look at the way we eat our meals. From the ancient Greeks to modern yuppies, from cannibalism and the taking of the Eucharist to formal dinners and picnics, she thoroughly defines the eating ritual.

"Read this book. You'll never look at a table knife the same way again."—The New York Times.

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Table manners are as old as human society itself, the reason being that no human society can exist without them. Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Longwinded, inaccurate, pedantic. 1 juin 2010
Par Jerry Lawson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Look, I'm all for getting paid by the word - but this takes it to an extreme. In her book "Much Depends on Dinner" I rather enjoyed the long-winded descriptions and found her take on how various things fit together fascinating. Not so much this one, unfortunately.

I started reading a few paragraphs in the introduction to my family on a road trip, and it took about two miles to wade through one. Admittedly, we were on the freeway... but the writing was nowhere near as clear as the previous book I read.

As others have noted, this book is chock full of trivia... which may or may not be accurate. The research is referenced, to be sure - close to 80 pages of references in the back.

What struck me, though, was the chaotic writing style of this book. It was stream of consciousness taken to an extreme. Constant digressions were the norm, you'd be talking about table manners of an African tribe in one paragraph (and wanting to read more) and the next you were reading about something completely disconnected, yet she was attempting to show how they were related... usually failing in the attempt. Whoever edited this, if it WAS edited and this IS the result, must have had one heck of a job getting it as coherent as it is. (Which is really not saying terribly much...)

I can't recommend this book, sorry. The two stars is because it really IS very diligently (if not carefully) researched. It is full of interesting material and factoids, but it's so badly presented and poorly organized that it's one of those books you keep in the bathroom. You can dip into it for a few minutes when you're otherwise preoccupied - and by the time the author changes the subject, you're done until next time.

And somehow, I don't think it was her intent to create a specialized book like that...
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Why we eat the way we do, and don't... 2 décembre 2009
Par John P. Jones III - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Margaret Visser writes on this quotidian activity with astonishing erudition. Her survey of our eating habits is global, spanning numerous societies, and she draws from all periods of our historical development. (There are roughly a thousand entries in her bibliography.) She reminds me of Simone de Beauvoir, whose also has a humbling erudition, and who used it to address the subject of woman's role in society, as well as aging. Visser draws the reader in with the antithesis of the Emily Post approach; she details the cannibalistic practices of the Aztecs, as they were first revealed (and experienced) by Spanish explorers / conquistadors.

The author devotes the first couple of chapters to our acculturation, drawing lessons from how monkeys learn to wash potatoes. She points out that children are "brought up," a passive construction, and taught the norms of social behavior. For some small segments of society, it is a never ending process; there "manners" are what set them apart from others, and re-enforce their power; others continue to try to break into society (p 69). Power relations surrounding food are just one of the recurring themes in this book. Consider: "In the modern world, where openly stratified hierarchy is an affront to the egalitarian myth, people are rarely permitted to display naked social ambition; snobbery must go decently disguised as creativity, free choice, good taste, and so forth. (p. 100). In the postscript she ruminates on the concept of "no time" in society today, and says: "Powerful people love impressing upon those needing their services that they have trouble finding time `to fit them in': making others wait because one's own time is more precious than theirs is one of the great hallmarks of desirability and success (p. 353)."

Visser's book is also an etymological discourse; time and time again she explains the origins, as well as the associated connotations of words, such as the Latin word for a hearth or fireplace, which is "focus." She includes numerous wry observations, such as: "A Freudian analysis of the knife, fork, and spoon gives the spoon the female role in the trio; the fork, if I understand the writer correctly, is the male child of the knife and the spoon, and, like a little Oedipus, resentful of the knife, and jealous of the spoon.) She even worked in the old quip about a certain insouciance towards formal manners, with the proverbial Canadian waitress advising British royalty: "Keep you fork, Duke, there's pie."

Usually serious, but occasionally light-hearted, there are ample conversation starters for a decade's worth of dinner parties, and may even help you win at "Jeopardy," as one reviewer noted. I also noted that two reviewers indicated serious mistakes in this book, one concerning Chinese meals, the other Jewish holidays. That may be so; it would be surprising given the scope of this book, and hopefully the author would comment on these assertions. I found none, however, and remain grateful for this scholarly view of one of life's most important rituals. I note that she has recently published a book about an equally important ritual, concerning our ability to say "Thank you," entitled: "The Gift of Thanks," and would consider that book to be important, based on her work in this one. A solid 5-star effort.
46 internautes sur 63 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
inaccurate information 15 mars 2004
Par CC - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Margaret Visser's advice has been quoted on Sage Asian Advice on Soup Etiquette, and the advice looks to me entirely misleading. It reads: "A Chinese banquet often begins with fruit and ends with soup." Being a Chinese myself and have attended numerous banquets, I have never seen fruit being served at the beginning and soup at the end. It will help if Ms. Visser can clarify what kind of banquet she had actually observed or attended. The regular way is soup being served close to the beginning after the cold and hot appetizers, and fruit is served at the very end together with dessert.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Surprisingly Fun, Tantalizing - A wonderful read! 4 novembre 2009
Par Karen Wagner - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
I saw this book advertised as one to give to "The person who has everything". I gave it to my parents and they loved it! I read it myself and had a ball learning all the tidbits and trivia surrounding some of our most basic rituals of everyday life. I love history and anthropology. Not having a formal background in this subject, I found this book a delight to read. It's like a PBS special in print! I strongly recommend this book. A former review objected to Ms. Vissar's connections between Judaism and Christiantity. I think her interpretation is different from what Ms. Mead was conveying. The focus is not on the specific beliefs - but the anthropological connections that humankind share - more on HOW we celebrate (lying/leanin around the dinner table (forgive my wording) vs. sitting in upright chairs or cross-legged.) That's the fun part! Who would think???? OH!!!!

A nice change of pace and wonderful book. Her other book Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos of an Ordinary Meal is another fun and eye-opening view of where some of our choices derive. Both books are like a scrumptious dessert at the end of a feast!
46 internautes sur 67 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Don't Judge a Book by its Cover 1 août 2001
Par C. Rogers - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I can't imagine doing the research for this tome. And I don't use the word tome lightly. This book is chock full of little tidbits of trivia that are fascinating, but that you will probabaly never need nor have an opportunity to share. What is the origin of the word, 'menu?' How did the fork evolve; how did table cloths come into use? "The ritual of Dinner" digs down to the tiniest of details, the most remote possible history and the widest variety of customs. If you expect such questions when you appear on Jeopardy, or when quizzed by your mother-in-law to be, this book is thorough and very well written. My, is it thorough!
But, is this the information that you seek? I was looking for a book that went into more detail than Amy Vanderbilt in the proper placement and use of dishes, utensils and glassware. I wanted to know the difference between a 'rim soup' bowl and a 'cream soup' bowl, and which spoon goes with which dish as well as which type of soup. Although some of this book was fascinating reading, it didn't really answer my questions. Well, maybe some of them, but you have to research and work at finding any guidelines. Visser insists that you learn the why and history of a ritual before letting you in on it's current practical use, and how it may be applied.
If you are not a museum curator and just want to set a proper table, I suggest you turn to "The Art of the Table" by Susanne Von Drachenfuls instead. And no, I'm still not sure about the soup bowls.
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