Posts Tagged ‘Physioloy of Taste’

book cover

Endless Feasts Cover.

Endless Feasts — Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet

  • Ruth Harkness munching on exotic pheasants left in a Tibetan Lamasery by monks fleeing the Chinese invaders in 1944 because that’s all the food she had.
  • Novelist Pat Conroy in Umbria rediscovering the food and sights through the eyes of his new mate.
  • The demise of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York as told by Louis DiaGou, the chef who was ran the kitchen in 1910 when the hotel opened and was still there when it closed in 1950.

These are just three of the 41 narratives from  the late, great Gourmet magazine.  My grandmother wrote a few articles for Gourmet in the 1940s-early 50s.

I wonder…. do travelers possess innately complex palates that drive them to sample the world’s cuisines?  Or, does travel expose people to exotic — perhaps fresher — ingredients, unusual preparations and intriguing cultural traditions?

The interplay between food and travel is logical.  Go traveling and you’ll be foraging, whether at the street market in Ho Chi Min City, the Ritz in Paris,  a Bayou gumbo shack,  or at Havana, North Dakota’s community run Farmer’s Inn.

Travelers do develop faith in food; a meal is reward for a long day or night’s journey.  Sometimes the story is how grand that  meal; other times, how bad, and the aftermath.  These stories are nearly all about  the great meals and the iconoclasts who cooked them.  A few stories include recipes.

Details on the book: Edited and with an introduction by Ruth Reichl. Modern Library, 2002. 401 pages, no index, $24.95

A similar version of this article appeared in the  Bloomsbury Review.




Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)

On Starch:  An excerpt from The Physiology of Taste, Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, translated by M.F.K. Fisher, The Heritage Press, New York, 1949


“Starch is a perfect food especially when it is least mixed with foreign matter.  By this starch is meant the flour or dust which comes from cereal grains, from legumes such as beans, and from many root vegetables, among which the potato at this moment holds first place.

Starch is the base of bread, of cakes, and of thick soups of all kinds, and for this reason forms a very great part of almost every person’s nourishment.

It has been observed that such a diet softens a man’s flesh and even his courage.  For proof one can cite the Indians, who live almost exclusively on rice and who are the prey of almost anyone who wishes to conquer them.

Almost all domestic animals will eat starch with avidity, and they are, in contrast, unusually strengthened by it, because it is a more substantial nourishment than the fresh or dry leaves which are their habitual fodder.

Sugar is no less negligible, either as a food or as a medicine.”


Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was born in Belley, in the Ain, in France, on the first day of April, 1755.  He lived and died a lawyer, like the other men of his family.  As Mayor of Belley he resisted the blood revolutionists in 1793, and was forced to flee his country, first to Switzerland and then to America.  He spent some two years in New York, giving language lessons and playing his violin in a theatre orchestra.  In 1796 he returned to France, and although he had lost almost everything, including his fine little vineyard, he was reinstated as an honorable citizen.  In 1825 he published at his own expense The Physiology of Taste, on which he had been working with amusement and pleasure for some three decades.  He died on February 2, 1826.  p. 23, (The Translator’s Glosses, M.F.K. Fisher).

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