Acquired Taste: The French Origins of Modern Cooking

Acquired Taste: The French Origins of Modern Cooking

by T. Sarah Peterson
     
 

This colorful history of French cooking takes us back before salt and pepper shakers had been dreamed of and explains why we begin with salad and end with dessert. Full of zesty quotes and recipes from period cookbooks and illustrated with wonderful still-life paintings, Acquired Taste is a trove of discoveries about cooking techniques and terms that still flourish

Overview

This colorful history of French cooking takes us back before salt and pepper shakers had been dreamed of and explains why we begin with salad and end with dessert. Full of zesty quotes and recipes from period cookbooks and illustrated with wonderful still-life paintings, Acquired Taste is a trove of discoveries about cooking techniques and terms that still flourish today.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A more accurate subtitle for Peterson's book might be The Origins of Modern Cooking with Some Digressions into Matters Alchemical and Neoplatonic. The bulk of the book is given over to rehearsing Medieval Europe's culinary appropriations from the Middle East (saffron, rose water) and Renaissance Europe's rediscovery of classical foodstuffs (fungi, oysters, artichokes). If not terribly new, this is perfectly enjoyable reading. The bigger problem comes in what is new. Peterson believes that a taste for highly spiced, golden food flavored with sugar and colored with saffron was undone by the fall from favor of mystical neoplatonism in France. While this may have been a factor, she fails to address other, simpler explanations. When discussing the decline of saffron in 17th-century French cookery, she does not address the simple social explanation that a recent glut of domestic saffron had made the spice too common for high tables. She notes, ``A number of 17th-century still lifes show small white bumpy objects in a variety of shapes. These are seeds or sticks coated with minerals from a hot spring. The metamorphosis of these objects into `stones'... fascinated the alchemical adept.'' But she never explains why she dismisses the more common identification of these ``white bumpy objects'' as sugared almonds and candied fruit. Peterson unfortunately replaces Ockham's razor with a butter knife. (Nov.)
Library Journal
This is, first and foremost, a scholarly historical work. Beginning with an overview of the Middle East's culinary influence on Western Europe, scholar Peterson traces eating trends (essentially from sweet to salty) through the alchemical and sensual Middle Ages and the scientific Renaissance. She fixes France as Europe's gastronomical mentor by 1651 and from then on describes in depth the evolution of French cuisine and its influence on modern cooking. Ancient recipes and illustrations of paintings and manuscripts decorate the text. The book is loaded with footnotes from primary sources such as Pliny, Avicenna, and Robert Burton, author of The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) and perhaps the first modern proponent of the Twinkie defense. Although the topic is rather academic, this book is not intimidating. By choosing to delve deeply into this esoteric subject, we can savor tidbits of information about astrology, the Reformation, and today's good life. Highly recommended.-Wendy Miller, Lexington, Ky.
Alice Joyce
A quick glance at the bibliography suggests the scope of Peterson's book, a work rich in historical detail and marked by such highlights as esoteric lore linking astrological and alchemical theories with recipes found in ancient cookery journals. At the crux of Peterson's presentation is her investigation into the development of preferences for certain foods and flavorings, as she follows shifting European culinary trends from early Arabic influences (known for sweet flavors and golden coloring) to later cuisine marked by a French influence that remains evident in today's European-American style fare. The copious research into the origins of modern cooking should satisfy inquisitive cooks and history buffs alike, with recipes featured from sources as diverse as a fourth-century Roman text by Apicius to the "Universal Family Cook" of 1795. Black-and-white illustrations are of still-life paintings and vintage images from rare cookery books.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801430534
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
11/28/1994
Series:
9/11/2008
Pages:
262
Product dimensions:
7.31(w) x 10.36(h) x 1.06(d)

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