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The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food (Anglais) Relié – Séquence inédite, 25 octobre 2011


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Chapter 1

Who Made the Restaurant?

A restaurant is a place where you go to eat. You usually arrive in the early afternoon or the middle of the evening, and you are taken to a table of your own in a room, usually on the ground floor of a city building in a space leased by a cook and made to look like a dining room. There are plush chairs and benches, and often mirrors. Someone, a professional go-between, often dressed in a parody of evening wear, whatever the hour, brings you a card that lists the things the cook is ready to cook, and how much it will cost to get him to cook them for you. You study this card-usually a list with decorations, sometimes bound in a leather pseudobook-and say what you'll have, and then the go-between goes into another room, the kitchen, which you can't see or hear or probably even smell. After a wait, the go-between brings the food you asked for. Very often, you will start with soup before having some grilled or roasted meat, followed by a sweet, almost always something made with sugar, a pudding or cake, rather than something naturally sweet, such as a plain piece of fruit. You are expected to have tea or coffee afterward, and then a bill is brought to your table. Prices are never mentioned out loud, and you pay whatever the card said you would. The place isn't a whorehouse or anything like it, but often you take someone there because you would like to have sex with them afterward, and sometimes you do, although, if you do, you go and do it somewhere else.

All the details, from soup to sex, of this setup, which by now seems as normal as eating itself, as obvious as breathing, can be found in more or less the same form from Sydney to San Francisco. And all of them-waiters, menus, tables, mirrors, closed kitchen, seduction, and silences, even the little table in the corner, tout compris-were thought up in Paris during a twenty-five or ten-year period right before the French Revolution and in the twenty or so years after. When you consider that eating is one of the few things that humans did even before they were people, it seems strange that restaurants should be so recent, but they are-as though the idea of having sex in beds had been discovered in Berlin during the winter of 1857, and then word got around.

There were places where you could go and pay for a meal before there were restaurants, of course: the tavern, the cookshop, the inn, the table d'hôte, the traiteur, or cook-caterer. The tavern as it evolved throughout Europe in the later part of the eighteenth century had many of the essential emotional traits of the modern restaurant. But the restaurant, with its special rituals and its particular look, began at one time and in one place.

The restaurant was known at once to be a modern and amazing thing. The great gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin marveled in 1825 that now "any man with three or four pistoles in his purse, can immediately, infallibly, and simply for the asking procure all the pleasures of which taste is susceptible." Yet how resilient, many- sided, adaptable, this new thing turned out to be, defying the rule that a picnic is made for one lawn and no other! If the restaurant is not the most original of modern instances and institutions, it is surely the most tenacious. It is the primal scene of modern life. Most modern urban people mark their lives by their moments in cafés and restaurants, just as ancient people marked their time on earth by visits to the local oracle, or medieval people by pilgrimages: we are courted, spurned, recruited, hired, fired, lured to a new job, or released from an old one at a table while a waiter hovers nearby. There are few marriages that did not begin at dinner at a table leased for the evening, and few divorces that did not first show signs of approaching doom in a sigh of resentment or an eye roll of exasperation in a similar setting. ("Can't you just make up your mind and stick with it?/Why do you always overtip?"...The "forever" sentiments of anniversary dinners out not rarely sugar over the approaching "no-mores" of domestic life.)

I love restaurants. I love them even though, after many years as a reporter spent being fully disillusioned about their behind-the-scenes- having labored once or twice in their kitchens and befriended their owners-I am aware of how brutal the work is, how long the hours are, and how, aside from the ventures of a handful of those entrepreneurs essentially indifferent to the food they serve, how tiny is the hope of profit. "Sale métier," the cooks and waiters alike mutter in Ludwig Bemelmans' memoirs of restaurant life in prewar Europe-"Filthy occupation"-and the muttering goes on still. Yet when I think of happy moments, I think of eating out.

Though they sometimes witness the ends of our love lives, restaurants surely have a ring of hope about them, a note of innocent celebration that makes them the right background for seduction. The man who asks the girl to dinner is not, after all, actually suggesting sex except by the airiest remote inference; he is pretending to be a better man than that: let's meet, talk, try. It offers the hope of happiness that gives greedy sex the look of lighthearted love, and, in the erotic sphere as much as the eating sphere, turns raw hunger into formal appetite. The restaurant offers not seduction but what precedes seduction, the false promise of pure motives.

I am, doubtless, prejudiced by particular experience. On my tenth birthday, I took the Moloznik boys from across the street to see a double feature of the first two James Bond films-this at a blissful time when the second run of movies in theaters was still a regular event, so that one had the pleasure of reseeing a good thing in the velvet padding of the cinema-not on the sofa, as we do now-with its thrilling moments in the dark: the trickle of sweet, forbidden Coke through a straw, and the chewy, burnt, semipainful edges of caramels. My parents, bless their kind hearts, were blackmailed into taking all three boys out to dinner at a Howard Johnson's on, as I recall, City Line Avenue in Philadelphia.

Howard Johnson's is gone now, reduced to a handful of sad motels, having receded from its excellence. But in its day it had something grand about it. There was the electric sign outside, in green and orange, showing, in rapidly animated yet obviously distinct action (you could see the unlit armature of the next moment of movement waiting just beyond the neon figure that was lit-an endlessly repeating flip book of colored light). Simple Simon and the Pieman enacting a brief drama of supplication and supply; one took eternally, the other fed over and over again, on the sign above City Line Avenue.

I sensed then that the sign, though meant as a come-on, was one of those strange, dense referents that used to be part of the pool of myths of ordinary people. Simon, as I recall, had the bent-kneed neediness of a Maxfield Parrish illustration, which, combined with the zigzagged lettering, made the sign, in retrospect, a kind of Saturday Evening Post cover come to life, or at least to electricity. (It was similar in spirit to, though far more pop in form than, the mural of Old King Cole in New York's St. Regis Hotel, a stylized comment on a nursery rhyme assumed to be known to everyone.) The sign's whimsical high voltage-the elaborate fable electrically enacted simply to signal "Eat!"-was conducted into the HoJo's interior as well, where the color scheme of blue and orange seeped even onto the margins of the many- paged menu. Its dishes were familiar along the highway to New York: the rubbery fried clams, the 3-D burger, the mint-chip ice cream, minted with green food coloring. The burger that I had that evening had the delectable aroma, now vanished from the world, of the griddles of my childhood, something buttery and of the soda fountain. The possibility of choice, the splendor of existence, was all present.

It was not the deliciousness of the food-my mother made better burgers- but the overcharge of optimism that made the meal matter. Its excellence involved the removal of the obvious signs of labor, which even then I took to be a benevolent fiction, for the better food at home was a benign good fortune but effortful. You had to have my mom to eat really well, but anyone could come here and share. It was a moment of transformation, lift-off, of anonymity transmuted into intimacy without the obligation of gratitude: you told the menu- bearing woman at the cash register "Four for dinner," and suddenly, inexplicably, you were in a booth, and there was dinner for four! This sense of being in the unimaginable right place with exactly the right company in the most welcoming of rooms attended by the most considerate of servers-whistling while they worked and candidly eyeing the reward-was a blessing felt there and sought ever since.

As museums cross or so Updike tells us, with the mystique of women, restaurants cross in memory with the optimism of childhood, with birthdays, promises, quiet, and the guilty desires of childhood, too: special treatment, special favors. The Cardinal, who never arrives, who sweeps you up into your carriage saying, "Child, you please me," becomes the maître d' who says, "Ah, sir, we're so glad to see you!" Some note of gaiety, of excess, of potential, lingers even at the most pedestrian lunch counter. (I have never looked at the Edward Hopper study of loneliness without thinking happily about how cozy the combination of diner chili and lemon meringue pie must be that late at night.)

Years went by-and here one must imagine calendar pages blowing and stock shots of jets crossing the Atlantic-and I found myself in Paris, just at a moment when the Grand Véfour had changed hands from Raymond Olivier's to the great cook Guy Martin's. Jet-lagged in the golden light of the Palais Royal, I recognized instantly the same sweet charge, the sibling resemblance to City Line Avenue and the Howard Johnson's of my tenth birthday. The enameled nymphs and goddesses, the mirrors, the red velvet couches-it was, for all the Palais Royal sophistication, this resemblance that made it moving: the experience of overcharge, of more than was necessary, of décor and joy, and sobriety of eating. Both were places of possibility, the illusion of potentials: we shall be blessed, and know that we are.

Even purely "social" restaurants, where dramas of snobbery play out, can be turned to such pleasure. In my misspent editorial youth, I used to take two gifted, hard-drinking writers, Mordecai Richler and Wilfrid Sheed, to lunch once a month at the Four Seasons. While Tina Brown and Helen Gurley Brown dined on water and lettuce, my two authors would let themselves go on shrimp with chipotle sausage, linguine alle vongole, crab cakes...and a bottle of red wine and a bottle of white (and too many Cognacs at the end; it was the last decade of hard-drinking writerliness, the last gasps of literary alcoholism that Sheed wrote about movingly and bravely in his In Love with Daylight). While Tina and Helen and the rest sipped and barely munched, the maître d' would wheel out a kind of chocolate bombe, for the express and sole purpose of having them squeal with indignant denial of interest. But the writers would demand a piece, and then another, with whipped cream (or "crème fraîche," as the arc had bent again toward France).

The restaurant, whether in its most abstract, ritzy form or at its most elemental, can always be diverted back toward a primal magic, a mood of mischief, stolen pleasures, a retreat from the world, a boat on the ocean-years later, having ice cream aboard a cruise ship in a storm, I would find that sense of stolen kisses, of clandestine joy, instantaneously renewed. That is what the restaurant promises, and how its prosaic purpose-cooked food exchanged for money-passes into the poetic, which explains why when the young man, from Balzac to Scott Fitzgerald, comes to the city, the first thing he seeks out is the place to eat that he has read about.

Who invented the restaurant? How did it begin? How did it happen that the long history of paying for food in a setting so singular and set became such a resilient institution-so resilient that a single restaurant, like Gundel in Budapest, could survive wars and revolutions, communists and the new economy, only to end much as it began? How did restaurants happen, and why did they happen first, or best, in Paris?

Until recently, most cooking history was pop history, filled with canned "Eureka!" moments and arch legend-making. ("The great chef Dunand found himself after the battle with nothing but crayfish, chicken, some eggs, and a couple of tomatoes. What, he wondered, could he make from such a motley assortment of ingredients? A moment's thought, a minute's chopping, and an hour later, on the Emperor's table, chicken Marengo was born," etc.) The birth of the restaurant had its myth-made tang, too. The old, potent, and long-standing story was that it was the French Revolution that had made the restaurant: After the revolution, the cooks of the French aristocrats were out of work, since they no longer had any mouths to feed. With nowhere to go but the streets, they opened cafés and started selling in public what before you could get only in private. Willy-nilly, the modern restaurant came into existence. A little later, a few high chefs, the great pastry architect Antonin Carême among them, made up a "grammar" of French cooking; that is, they wrote down recipes. Together, the dining room on the street and the recipe book in the kitchen made a new place. The aristocrats lost their heads; their cooks lost their jobs and found a new way to make a living in a democratic world.

A clutch of scholars, many of them, interestingly, women, have in the past decade or so proved the expelled-from-Eden myth all wrong. (Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, Rebecca Spang, and Rosemary Trubek have all figured in this work, and so has the British historian Giles Macdonogh.) The invention of the restaurant, it turns out, predates the revolution by at least twenty years, and chefs being out of work had nothing to do with it. (The nobles' cooks were more like head butlers than like chefs in any case, and most stayed loyal to their old bosses after the fighting started.) The old story goes that the essential ways of cooking and practice already existed behind château doors but were democratized when chefs entered the ungilded world. But in truth the cooking they did wasn't anything like the new cooking of the restaurants. Carême, though a great figure in his way, as a writer and provider, belongs more truly to the history of catering.

Revue de presse

 
“Adam Gopnik brilliantly weaves together the history, philosophy, and culture of food with his deep passion for cooking and the shared pleasures of the table. Anyone who roasts a chicken at home or eats chocolate mousse in a restaurant will be forever changed by this book. I loved it!”
—Ina Garten
 
“I need to read anything that Adam Gopnik writes, and this book on food, eating and—it follows—life is a particular feast. His acuity, grace, sensitive intelligence (in short, his brilliance) are, as ever, dazzlingly displayed and yet with the lightest of touches.”
—Nigella Lawson
 
“Gopnik would surely be the world’s greatest dinner guest; he can make any subject fascinating, and always backs up his curiosity with unhurried research and an acute eye for the telling detail. As the number of TV cooking shows piles up faster than the empty Pop-Tart wrappers in my kitchen, it’s time to ask: Why is the world so fixated on food? Gopnik explores the origins of restaurants, recipes and other grub-centered rituals.”
—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
 
“The perfect book for any intellectual foodie, a delicious book packed with so much to sink your teeth into”
—Padma Lakshmi, author, actress, model and host of the Emmy-winning Top Chef

“Adam Gopnik’s The Table Comes First: France, Family, and the Meaning of Food indulges gourmands everywhere . . . In Gopnik’s distinctive style, it is encyclopedic yet personal and funny, and it drives at deeper truths . . . His story is more ambitious than a history of restaurants—it’s about how we taste, dream, and argue about food. He explores the extremes of strict localism (exhibit A: Brooklyn tilapia). He gets into the heads of apparent adversaries—the meatless crowd and the whole-beast fiends, the Slow Food and molecular movements, the New and Old World wine advocates—and gives each its place in the grand foodie pantheon . . . Gopnik’s take on what makes eating glorious is at once sweeping and intimate.”
—Tracy McNicoll, Newsweek 

 
“Adam Gopnik’s writing about food is highly intellectual and profoundly witty, while also being warm and personal and rooted in common sense. He thinks hard about the routines of the table, and makes you think too.”
—John Lanchester, author, The Debt to Pleasure
 
And praise from the UK:
 
“As a dauntless Francophile, a doting father, and a dedicated foodie, Gopnik joins a distinguished corps of essayists who have dedicated themselves to the important subject of gastronomy . . . He possesses the happy knack of combining intellectual curiosity with a quotidian interest in humanity and writes with intelligence, wit, and grace about culinary quiddities and contradictions. From the first restaurants to appear in 18th-century France to fast-food joints, Gopnik unfurls his napkin and tucks in.”
—Iain Finlayson, The Times (London)
 
“Adam Gopnik is an admirably versatile writer . . . The writing is light and bright throughout, the learning deep but informal.”
—Ed Cumming, The Daily Telegraph
 
 ”The Table Comes First is a pleasantly odd, heterogeneous book that never allows itself to be confined by the boundaries of its gastronomical theme. It presents a lavish buffet of history, autobiography, reportage and philosophy, among various other forms . . . One of the main pleasures of The Table Comes First is the way in which Gopnik continually manages to write about food while also gesturing towards larger themes and concerns: family, economics, philosophy, literature, ideas of justice and what it might mean to live a good life . . . Wonderfully eloquent and insightful . . .”
—Mark O’Connell, Sunday Business Post (Ireland)
 
 ”A compelling read about how cooking practices change with every generation, The Table Comes First should be on the shelves of all food enthusiasts. Gopnik explores culinary history, from 19th-century Parisian fine dining to our modern concern with sustainable food.”
Stella magazine
 
“He has a voice that is by turns conversational and dandyish, fancy about everyday pleasures (sport, food) and defiantly unawed about those subjects that are supposed to matter more (art, philosophy) . . . These are personal essays in the fullest sense of the word, sieving the big subjects of the book’s subtitle—family, France, food—through one man’s well-furnished mind.”
—Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian
 
“Adam Gopnik is the nearest thing there is—in the English-speaking world, at any rate—to a philosopher of food . . . [T]hese essays blend enormous erudition with great elegance of expression, and pack intellectual firepower too . . . Gopnik wants us to take food seriously, to believe that the table comes first. At the same time, he wants us to remember that food matters only in so far as we connect it with the broader project of living well, of staying at home with ‘our pleasures as much as our principles’ . . . These essays are a reminder that gastronomy, in order to be profound, must also know its place.”
—William Skidelsky, New Statesman 
 

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x90a2dcfc) étoiles sur 5 54 commentaires
82 internautes sur 88 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91495a74) étoiles sur 5 Good in parts, not as a whole 29 novembre 2011
Par Malfoyfan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I was just looking at the reviews of this book, which I finished last night, and I'm in agreement with a couple of people here - this book can be entertaining at times, but as a whole it didn't work that well for me. I enjoy Gopnik's New Yorker pieces, or I did when I was taking the magazine. They were always well-written and to the point. However, in this book, his writing seemed to get away from him. Run-on sentences galore, and most chapters went on longer than they needed to. IMO, if a chapter FEELS long while I'm reading it, and I'm thinking, please, just get on with it already, some editing is in order. I also thought the emails to the long-dead English writer Elizabeth Pennell were unnecessary and didn't contribute to the book. Gopnik is obviously a very educated person and did a lot of research for the book, and some of it is very interesting, but compared to MFK Fisher, Ruth Reichl, and Laurie Colwin, to name a few, he doesn't measure up as a food writer. I don't have a post-grad degree, but I read a lot of books (including books about food, cooking and farming) and it just didn't entertain or enlighten me enough to recommend it.
21 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91495b4c) étoiles sur 5 Good Idea, tooooo long. 6 décembre 2011
Par Jesse K. dart - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I'm a fan of his writing in general, and in fact his previous books were really good. I follow him on the New Yorker as well, and those articles are also generally well thought out and edited, also researched. This book is too long. It rambles through some interesting historical points, but while going nowhere. I read alot of food books, web sites, blogs, etc. and the information in the book makes me think that Mr Gopnik is completly out of touch with other food writing today. He says he loves food which you can see from his other writing, but this book desperately needed to be edited down to something more coherent and manageable. The emails are not really interesting enough to be in the book.

If your looking to buy an Adam Gopnik book, you can by any of the others and have a winner. If you want a book on gastronomy, French Cooking, or food history, there is a list a mile long that will serve you better.
10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91495f84) étoiles sur 5 Appetizing but unsatisfying. 25 janvier 2012
Par Eric Leventhal - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Adam Gopnik's earlier book, Paris to the Moon, delighted me with its insight, charm and wit. So when I heard Gopnik interviewed on NPR about his latest book THE TABLE COMES FIRST, it became an instant must read. I am sorry to say this volume does not live up to expectations.

THE TABLE is meant to be the insightful exploration of the meaning of gathering for a meal at home or in a restaurant, as the jacket blurb promises. It is in reality a report on trends: localism, slow food, quantitative wine reviews and the so-called crisis in French cooking, with some observations about family and France along the way. Info that is timely, not timeless.

PARIS/MOON recreates the experience of living among the French. Gopnik's combination of close observation and historic review reveals what feels like the truth about French civilization-- a key to understanding the nation and people. And he does so with elan and many a bon mot.

In this work only his demi chapter on the origin of the cookbook recaptures the tone of delightful discovery, dry wit and ironic bewilderment I so much enjoy and admire in his earlier writing.

Gopnik devotes a chapter to `taste,' a topic that has entire books devoted to it. The question of Taste and her sisters Manners and Morals involves anthropology, sociology, history and religion. To squeeze it into just a chapter, the author covers huge swaths of intellectual territory at a brisk clip. His offering is­ (to use culinary metaphors) half baked, dense and hard to digest. After this didactic, half-convincing introduction of the main topic, the rest of the book feels flimsy. Instead of revealing immutable truths Gopnik's observations are just (well written) notes on trends and of passing interest.

To fill out the volume, Gopnik includes letters (actually emails) to his new favorite food writer Elizabeth Pennell. These missives are inspired by favorite recipes and give him the opportunity to really talk about the food he loves to cook and eat. They are lively, chatty and personal. Gopnik is a little bit in love with this long-dead "greedy woman" and like any man under a crush tries very hard to impress her and prove his worthiness. When he writes about food to Pennell he's really showing off, trying to provoke a return of affection through a combination of arcana, familiarity and shared experience. It's a pleasure to catch Gopnik in this unbuttoned, enthusiastic mode, but also a little embarrassing. The letters are to Pennell, so we are eavesdroppers. And since he's writing to another A-list foodie, his recipes are short on technical detail because she of course knows all the techniques and flavors.

Gopnik explains why certain contemporary faddists eat the way they do. He tries but, I think, falls short of delivering his key to the mythology of food. For a more illuminating, lasting and entertaining run at that challenge I recommend the works of the irrepressible Canadian teacher and lecturer Margaret Visser, The Rituals of Dinner and Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos of an Ordinary Meal.
12 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9149836c) étoiles sur 5 Ugh...tedious 1 janvier 2012
Par K. Marcum - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I absolutely love Adam Gopnik's writing. Paris to the Moon is one of my favorite nonfiction books--to me, a perfect combination of the public and the personal. Gopnik's strength is the ability to observe something carefully and well and then comment on it in ways that take it from the singular to the universal. My favorite parts of his writing are these careful rhapsodies, grounded in the real. I also love food writing, and have been reading anything I can get my hands on for at least the last decade. So when I heard he was coming out with a food book, I couldn't wait to read it. Now I've been carrying it around on my iPad for several weeks and can't get through more than a couple of pages at a time.

I loved the introduction, and his comment on how historically food writing has concerned itself more with what happens around the table than what's on it. (Yes, I thought, and that's what I hate about food tv). But it ground to a halt not long after that. I do recognize pieces here and there that appeared in the New Yorker, and they are better--more entertaining and tightly focused--than the material at surrounds it. But mostly the book just drags on. Gopnik rhapsodizes and rhapsodizes, but it's not balanced by his traditional research and sharp observations. And so it grows tedious. Skip this one and read anything else of his.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x91498450) étoiles sur 5 "Recognizably sublime moments and weirdly remote rhetorical flourishes" 24 septembre 2014
Par Andrea Broomfield - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Adam Gopnik’s The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food covers a wide range of topics, from profiles of restaurateurs to philosophical arguments regarding taste. I was drawn to the book because of the title and what the book might convey to me about French food culture and France in general. While France does play a role in Gipnik’s study, its role is less overt than what the title leads one to believe. Readers do not meet French families or gain much insight into modern-day French families' eating habits and recipes, in other words.

I did benefit from reading this book, however. It helped me recall aspects of European food history that I had learned at one time but had forgotten. I appreciated Gopnik’s chapter, “Who Made the Restaurant?” for just this reason. He offered a brief history of the French term, _restaurant_, and how it moves from meaning a healthy broth—a restorative—to a type of establishment where diners choose where and with whom they will eat, and where they also choose their meal from an a la carte menu. For that matter, the entire Part One, “Coming to the Table” is worth consideration because it analyzes a dining style that Westerners today are so familiar with that they simply take it for granted (be it eating at a Howard Johnson's or a fancy French restaurant). Gopnik places restaurant dining in a distinct time and place in food history, making this ordinary ritual seem quite extraordinary.

No matter where I was in Gopnik’s study, I discovered fascinating and important information about food culture. I knew little about the progression of alcoholic beverages during a formal meal, how it is common to begin with champagne and from there move to white wine to red, then liqueurs and brandies, and finally a sweet wine. This progression is largely an English invention, not French, and it happened in relatively recent times. Nor did I know much about the difference between the café and the restaurant, and Gopnik effectively explains that the restaurant is about the chef and what he or she chooses to cook, while the café is about the patrons, where “pleasure can be rented for the price of a coffee.” In what I consider a flash of brilliance, Gopnik uses the history of the café and the restaurant to get at why British food has historically been bad compared to French food.

Nonetheless, Gopnik’s narrative can become overwrought or disjointed. He flits from thing to thing, absorbed occasionally with his own rhetorical flourishes. Thus, it’s amusing when Gopnik, comparing gourmands to theater buffs, imagines that theater buffs would find that “an eighteenth-century Shakespeare performance would surely swing between recognizably sublime moments and weirdly remote rhetorical flourishes;” in many ways, that’s what Gopnik’s own book does. He has “recognizably sublime moments”, like when he offers an analysis of how seduction and sex relate to the restaurant’s cultural development, and then “weirdly remote rhetorical flourishes”, particularly when he composes these long, sometimes embarrassing emails to the long-dead female aesthete, Elizabeth Robbins Pennell (whose _Feasts of Autolycus_ is a culinary gem ).

Ultimately, I would recommend Gopnik's study to the committed food scholar and academic more so than to a casual food lover, even though Gopnik is himself a journalist, not an academic. The writing is at times overly dense and the argument convoluted; one has to work hard to extract from the book the important elements. It’s worth the labor if one lives and breathes food studies, but probably not as enticing for those who might instead enjoy curling up with some marvelously well-written and penetrating essays on food culture by Elizabeth David, Calvin Trillin, or indeed, Elizabeth Robins Pennell herself.
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