The Very Brilliant Savarin
Updated: Aug 15, 2019
It is a rare and impactful privilege to encounter literature that is as potent in its transcendence of a reader’s palate, as it is effective in its ability to provide sustained commentary on culinary culture. Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste is that pivotal piece of timeless text. The discourse weaves between Savarin’s nostalgic tableside vignettes, prevalent gastronomic theory, and historical recounts of cardinal transitions in culinary intelligence. Cataloged as a series of Meditations, the author waxes prophetic on the requisite impressions of food on both society and the individual; Savarin is seen bridging the gap between man and meal by connecting the practices of consumption with class, family, region and ritual. He knits the fabric of food philosophy through the spindles of ethics and intimacy, relaying secreted preferences of the aristocracy and how they drew on innovations of necessity birthed by the working poor of the 18th century. Savarin’s attention to detail in anecdote and illustration bestow a reassuring sense of experienced wisdom upon its reader, as though the occult knowledge contained has been leaked from his own diary.
First published solely in French in 1825, the exceptional interpretation of Taste, now filtered through the lens of one youthful and accomplished M.F.K Fischer, comes almost a century after its original circulation, in 1948. An honorable and distinguished predecessor to the scriptural throne and a literary food force in her own right, M.F.K Fischer translates the work of Brillat-Savarin with invulnerable wit and devious charm. Fischer’s humanizing addition of the Translators Glosses culminates each Mediation, giving thorough examination of Savarin, his history, quirks and biases, all through learned experience and the advantageous positionality of hindsight. A true treat to the tongue, soul and psyche, The Physiology of Taste has endured the shifts of gastronomic integrities, politics and ethics until now, and will continue to be a force in culinary literature for many hungry centuries to come.