Rebecca L. Spang is an Associate Professor in the History Department of Indiana University.
About This Book
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 eighteenth 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 nineteenth 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 establishes the restaurant at the very intersection of public and private in French culture—the first public place where people went to be private.
Table of Contents
Introduction: To Make a Restaurant
- The Friend of All the World
- The Nouvelle Cuisine of Rousseauian Sensibility
- Private Appetites in a Public Space
- Morality, Equality, Hospitality!
- Fixed Prices: Gluttony and the French Revolution
- From Gastromania to Gastronomy
- Putting Paris on the Menu
- Hiding in Restaurants
Epilogue: Restaurants and Reverie
Introduction (page 1)
To Make a Restaurant
Centuries before a restaurant was a place to eat (and even several decades after), a restaurant was a thing to eat, a restorative broth. This book traces the emergence of the restaurant (as we know it) from a tiny cup of bouillon.
In the ﬁfteenth century, a recipe for a restaurant began by instructing that a freshly killed capon be cooked in an alchemist‘s glass kettle with sixty gold ducats, and noted that the cook might supplement the gold pieces with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, jaspers, or “any other good and virtuous precious stones the doctor may order. » The seventeenth- and eighteenth-century dictionaries of Furetiere and Trévoux omitted the gems from the recipe but still defined a restaurant as a semi-medicinal preparation, while Diderot and D’Alembert’s massive Encyclopedie (1751-l772) listed “Restaurant” as a “medical term,” and offered brandy, chickpeas, and chocolate as examples of “restorative” substances. Many French cookbooks of the eighteenth century included lengthy recipes for bouillon-based preparations called restaurants, which they promised would restore health to suffering invalids and flavor to othenvise insipid sauces.
Restaurants of this period differed from all other bouillons by their highly condensed nature, since, unlike the more plebeian sorts of consommés, restaurants were often prepared without the addition of any liquid. The final product, after a cooking procedure of alchemical exactitude, was then a broth of pure meat essences. Recipes called for a variety of meats—usually ham, veal, and some fowl (chicken, partridge, or pheasant) — to be sweated and cooked for many hours in a tightly sealed kettle or hair: utarir (hot water bath). According to experts, the prolonged cooking began the process of breaking down the flesh and allowed the meat to reach the eater already partially digested. In the appetizing words of one recipe, a restaurant had the benefit of being solid food converted
Pages 2-3 are not included in this book preview