The Table Comes First: France, Family, and the Meaning of Food
Our modern society is very particular about what constitutes good food: local, seasonal, organic produce that doesn't overly impact on the environment. But throughout history every generation has believed that it alone knows the true value of food, and looked with distaste on the culinary practices of its predecessors. Not so long ago eating food from around the world was the mark of the cultural sophisticate.
In The Table Comes First Adam Gopnik envisions a new 'physiology of taste' which will enable us to dispense with this moralising attitude and concentrate on the pleasure principle: food is to be enjoyed, and to help us enjoy life in turn. Above all the dining table should be the heart of the family, the place where all real family begins. To show this we are taken through the courses, from starters to desserts, from the establishment of the first restaurants in Paris in the early 19th century to the green movement of the present day, in a witty and erudite narrative interspersed with delightful anecdotes, ranging from making souffles for Derrida (hint: the perfect souffle is determined by the ineffable 'zone' between peaks and troughs) to hunting the lost recipe for 'Steack Boston'.
Adam Gopnik is the author of Paris to the Moon and Through the Children's Gate and is a contributor to The New Yorker. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.