The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture (Harvard Historical Studies)

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9780674000643: The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture (Harvard Historical Studies)
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Why are there restaurants? Why would anybody consider eating to be an enjoyable leisure activity or even a serious pastime? To find the answer to these questions, we must accompany Rebecca Spang back to France in the 18th century, when a restaurant was not a place to eat but a thing to eat: a quasi-medicinal bouillon that formed an essential element of pre-Revolutionary France's nouvelle cuisine. This is a book, about the French revolution in taste and of the table - a book about how Parisians invented the modern culture of food, thereby changing their own social life and that of the world. During the 1760s and 1770s, those who were sensitive and supposedly suffering made public show of their delicacy by going to the new establishments known as "restaurateurs' rooms" and there sipping their bouillons. By the 1790s, though , the table was variously seen as a place of decadent corruption or democratic solidarity. The revolution's tables were sites for extending frugal, politically correct hospitality, and a delicate appetite was a sign of counter-revolutionary tendencies. The restaurants that had begun as purveyors of health food became symbols of aristocratic greed. In the early 19th century, however, the new genre of gastronomic literature worked within the strictures of the Napoleonic police state to transform the notion of restaurants and to confer star status upon oysters and champagne. Thus, the stage was set for the arrival of British and American tourists keen on discovering the mysteries of Frenchness in the capital's restaurants. From restoratives to restoration, Spang established the restaurant at the very intersection of public and private in French culture - the first public place where people went to be private.

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Review:

Spang chronicles these developments Ýin the history of restaurants¨ in a tasty work, which is about far more than food.

A deeply gratifying social history of the Parisian public food world, as multilayered and earthy as pot-au-feu, for all its scholarship, as agreeably informal as a bistro.

Spang traces Ýthe¨ history Ýof restaurants¨ and challenges the traditional gastronomic narrative of dining out in the French capital...Spang's work should appeal to readers seriously interested in the social and intellectual history of dining out. -- Mary Carroll "Booklist"

This prize-winning academic historical study is a lively, engrossing, authoritative account of how the restaurant as we know it developed...Rebecca Spang is consistently perceptive about the semiotics of her theme, and as generous in her helpings of historical detail as any glutton could wish.

ÝA¨ pleasingly spiced history of the restaurant...How has Ýthe¨ restaurant ritual come to be? And why does it have this form? Such questions are now familiar in works of cultural and social history...Ýbut¨ Spang adds to the genre without falling prey to its jargon. -- Edward Rothstein "New York Times"

The perfect book for a time of year that celebrates, among other things, food. Historian Rebecca Spang begins with an inspired question: Why are there restaurants? To answer this, she takes the reader back a couple of centuries to France, when a restaurant was actually a thing to eat and not a place to go. Her well-researched, compelling book deservedly won several awards.

No more fables about "ancien re gime" chefs, whose aristo patrons had been guillotined or exiled in the French Revolution...an end to those anecdotes about their invention of dishes broiled on a breastplate on some Napoleonic battlefield. Because Spang reveals the restaurant's first true author: Mathurin Roze de Chantoiseau, "friend of all the world," an entrepreneur who edited an annual business directory in which he recommended himself as the "king's restauranteur" and founder of the first "house of health." -- Vera Rule "The Guardian"

adds to the genre without falling prey to its jargon.

into something very like the places where we go out to eat today.

and as generous in her helpings of historical detail as any glutton could wish.

About the Author:

Rebecca L. Spang is Lecturer in Modern European History at University College London.

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