Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Adam Gopnik pens a Love letter to France’s influence on how we taste and talk about food

Tracy McNicoll (Newsweek’s Paris correspondent. She has been covering Western Europe for the magazine since 2002).

If you’re a critic and you haven’t trumpeted the slowing pulse of French gastronomy, there’s something wrong with you. Or so goes the fashion. It’s only fair—France did invent high culinary competition as we know it. But if you’re a regular person who just loves to eat, you may not flinch at the waning star of pot-au-feu or garlicky escargots.

In that air du temps, Adam Gopnik’s forthcoming book, The Table Comes First: France, Family, and the Meaning of Food, indulges gourmands everywhere. And it’s a refreshing defense of the nation responsible in so many ways for the way we eat now. In Gopnik’s distinctive style, it is encyclopedic yet personal and funny, and it drives at deeper truths.

Gopnik(left) is a Francophile who puts interlopers in the crowded books-on-Paris genre to shame. At the city’s English-language bookshops, his 2000 bestseller Paris to the Moon—chronicling the five years he spent in France for The New Yorker—remains a top request. (“All the freaking time!” as one bookseller puts it.)
To hear Gopnik tell it, without the few decades bookending the French Revolution in the exact quarter of the Palais Royal near the Louvre, dinner wouldn’t be the same, no matter where you are. But his story is more ambitious than a history of restaurants—it’s about how we taste, dream, and argue about food. He explores the extremes of strict localism (exhibit A: Brooklyn tilapia). He gets into the heads of apparent adversaries—the meatless crowd and the whole-beast fiends, the Slow Food and molecular movements, the New and Old World wine advocates—and gives each its place in the grand foodie pantheon.

Full story at The Daily Beast.

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