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The Physiology of Taste

(article, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin)

h3. From Chapter 3: “On Gastronomy”

Gastronomy is the reasoned comprehension of everything connected with the nourishment of man.

Its aim is to obtain the preservation of man by means of the best possible nourishment.

It attains this object by giving guidance, according to certain principles, to all who seek, provide, or prepare substances which may be turned into food.

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h1. About the book and author

A French lawyer, violinist, and onetime refugee in America, Brillat-Savarin was known for the culinary and conversational quality of his dinners. He's best remembered today for The Physiology of Taste, his idiosyncratic musings on the meanings of food. 

Excerpt reprinted with permission of the Penguin Group (1994).
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Gastronomy, in fact, is the motive force behind farmers, vinegrowers, fishermen, and huntsmen, not to mention the great family of cooks, under whatever title they may disguise their employment as preparers of food.

Gastronomy pertains:
To natural history, through its classification of foodstuffs;
To physics, through its examination of the composition and qualities of foodstuffs;
To chemistry, through the various processes of analysis and decomposition to which it subjects them;
To cookery, through the art of preparing dishes and making them agreeable to the taste;
To commerce, through its quest for the means of buying what it consumes at the lowest possible price, and of retailing what it has to sell at the highest possible price;
Finally, to political economy, through its value as a source of revenue and a means of exchange between nations.

[%image picnic float=right width=300 caption="Everybody eats." credit="Photo: iStockphoto/Hanis"]

Gastronomy governs the whole life of man; for the tears of the newborn child are for its nurse’s breast, and the dying man derives pleasure from the final potion, which, alas, he will never digest.

Its influence is felt by all classes of society; for while it is gastronomy which rules the banquets of kings, it is also gastronomy which stipulates how many minutes a humble egg should be boiled.

The material subject of gastronomy is everything which can be eaten; its immediate object, the preservation of the individual; and its methods of attaining that object, cultivation which produces foodstuffs, commerce which exchanges them, industry which prepares them, and experience which devises the means of turning them to the best possible account.


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