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Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755–1826)

Author of The Physiology of Taste or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy

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About the Author

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was born in Belley, France, in 1755, becoming a lawyer and then mayor of his hometown. After fleeing the revolutionists in 1793, he was exiled briefly in the United States (where he continued his culinary investigations with equal zeal), until returning to Paris and show more being appointed judge in the court of appeals. He spent the last twenty-five years of his life living peacefully and writing The Physiology of Taste. Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher transformed thoughts and observations about food into literature and is widely acknowledged as the creator of the genre we now call "food writing." In a career that extended over seven decades until her death in 1992, she wrote twenty-six books, inspiring three generations of readers. show less
Image credit: Project Gutenberg

Works by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin


Common Knowledge



The publication of The physiology of taste in the Penguin Classics series is a translation of La physiologie du gout, first published in French in 1825. A few years back, I was interested in writing wine and fine dining reviews professionally and collected and read some books in that field. While other reviews described this book as a must read, I was rather disappointed. I can only say that is this is perhaps due to the early publication date. The book may be remarkable in this form for the genre, but both modern cookbooks as well as novels about gastronomy are much better.… (more)
edwinbcn | 19 other reviews | Dec 4, 2021 |
It's impossible to read any book about French food culture without encountering the name Brillat-Savarin along with a myriad of quotes. ("A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman who has lost an eye" is oft repeated.) He published what could be the first foodie treatise in the early 19th century, praising the joys of fine food in orgasmic terms while also espousing on how food impacts sleep (as understood by his own observations) and overall day-to-day existence.

This book must obviously be looked at within the context of the time period. He's a man born in the 1700s, a survivor of the Revolution, and inspired--and limited--by the science of his time. Some of his observations made me roll my eyes, like his rants on obesity: "Obesity produced a distaste for dancing, walking, riding, and an inaptitude for those amusements which require skill or agility." However, after he describes his own recommended diet to reduce fatness, he goes to tell of how he lost an early love to a terrible eating disorder after she took drastic measures as a result of being bullied over her weight. His grief, and his counsel for moderation, rang as quite profound.

Most of the book is about the joy of food, though--and French food at that, still very much worthy of praise. He talks of regional cuisines, and of course things like cheese, truffles, salads, and how the senses are involved with the experience of the gourmandise. It's a shame that he died right as the book was published, as he could have done even more to boost French food in that era. As it is, his influence is still felt today. The man has a cheese named after him. In my judgment, that's one of the best forms of immortality available.
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1 vote
ladycato | 19 other reviews | Mar 7, 2020 |
C'est Gasterea, c'est la plus jolie des muses qui m'inspire ; je serai plus clair qu'un oracle, et mes préceptes traverseront les siècles

Eh bien voilà une bonne découverte, cette physiologie du goût dont j'entends parler depuis si longtemps: "dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai qui tu es".
Pourquoi j'aime ce livre? Parce que, avant tout, ça parle de BOUFFE, tout du long, c'est à peine pensable. Ce livre se boit comme du petit-lait, se déguste comme une crêpe à la crème de marrons, se goûte par petites touches, comme un assortiment de baklavas arrosé de thé à la menthe, ... Bref, vous aurez compris cette subtile métaphore.
Tout y passe, depuis des descriptions "scientifiques" (ou presque) d'aliments, jusqu'aux explications des plaisirs de la table, en y incluant des considérations sociologiques, comment dire, qui ont un peu vieilli:
la mortalité diminue dans la même proportion que les moyens qu'on a de se bien nourrir augmentent ; et qu'ainsi ceux que la fortune soumet au malheur de se mal nourrir peuvent du moins être sûrs que la mort les en délivrera plus vite.

Sans oublier quelques considérations digestives:
La digestion est de toutes les opérations corporelles celle qui influe le plus sur l'état moral de l'individu. [...] On pourrait ranger, sous ce rapport, le genre humain civilisé en trois grandes catégories: les réguliers, les resserrés et les relâché.

Je n'ai aucune idée du niveau de second degré que Brillat-Savarin a voulu mettre dans ce livre, mais ce cher monsieur amateur de bonne bouffe et de bonne boisson ne manque ni d'humour ni d'une certaine mégalo, pour ne pas dire d'une mégalo certaine...
Je le laisse conclure:
le plaisir de la table peut s'associer à tous les autres plaisirs, et reste le dernier pour nous consoler de leur perte
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elisala | 19 other reviews | Feb 16, 2018 |
Finished reading [The Physiology of Taste] by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. What a delightful book! I feel like I've been enjoying the company of the character Maurice Chevalier played in the movie [Gigi]. Had to be careful at work translating one of the Latin bits. Brillat-Savarin loved to play with words and there were several "nudge-nudge, wink-wink moments, such as this passage:

"A host of the Chaussée-d'Antin had an Arlesian sausage of heroic proportions presented at his table. "Please accept a slice of it," he urged the lady next to him. "Here is a piece of equipment which, I hope, implies a well-furnished establishment."
"It is truly enormous," the lady said, peering at it with lewd mischief, "What a pity that it does not resemble anything!"

His wit and charm are on every page; most likely due to the fact that it was translated by [[M.F.K. Fisher]]. Her "Translator's Glosses" are every bit as charming and fun as the text. Written (or rather published) in 1825, he says very little about the Revolution which he lived through. He does have a few anecdotes from his time spent in America during his exile, and one remembrance in the "Varieties" section of his flight from France. For the most part though, this is a collection of his thoughts on food and health and good living. I was pretty amazed how the diet for health that The Professor promoted was very like our Paleo diet, and there are several recipes for what amounts to bone broth. Everything old is new again.
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MrsLee | 19 other reviews | May 28, 2017 |



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Associated Authors

M. F. K. Fisher Translator & Annotations
Per Åhlin Cover artist
Bertall Illustrator
Algot Ruhe Translator
Anne Drayton Translator
Sylvain Sauvage Illustrator
Roberta Ferrara Translator
Robert L. Dothard Book Designer
Valdis Bisenieks Translator
Gita Grīnberga Translator



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