The physiology of taste, by Brillat-Savarin

Meditation XXVIII.


A restaurateur is one, the business of whom is to offer a dinner always ready, and with prices to suit those that consume them.

Of all those who frequent restaurants, few persons cannot understand that a restorateur is not necessarily a man of genius.

We shall follow out the affiliation of ideas which has led to the present state of affairs.


About 1770, after the glorious days of Louis XIV., and the frolics and tranquility of the regency of Cardinal Fleury, foreigners had few means of good cheer.

They were forced to have recourse to inn-keepers, the cookery of whom was generally very bad. A few hotels kept a table d’hote which generally contained only what was very necessary, and which was always ready at an appointed hour.

The people we speak of only ordered whole joints, or dishes, and consequently such an order of things could not last.

At last a man of sense arose, who thought that an active cause must have its effect. That as the same want sent people every day to his house, consumers would come whenever they were satisfied that they would be served. They saw that if a wing was cut from a fowl for one person, some one would be sure to taste the thigh. The separation of one limb would not injure the flavor of the rest of the animal. More pay the least attention to the increase of prices, when one considers the prompt service of what was served.

This man thought of many things, which we may now easily devise. The one who did so was the first restaurateur and the inventor of a business which is a fortune to all who exercise it promptly and honorably.

[The translator here omits a whole chapter.]

From the examination of the bills of fare of different restaurants, any one who sets down at the table, has the choice of the following dishes:—

12 soups.

24 side dishes.

15 or 20 preparations of beef.

20 of mutton.

30 of fowl or game.

16 or 20 of veal.

12 of pastry.

24 of fish.

15 roasts.

50 side dishes.

50 desserts.

Besides the fortunate gastronomer has thirty kinds of wine to select from, passing over the whole scale from Burgundy to Tokay, and Constantia, and twenty various kinds of essences, without taking into consideration such mixed drinks as punch, negus, sillabubs and the like.

Of the various parts of a good dinner, many are indigenous, such as butcher’s meat, fowl and fruits. Others for instance, the beef– stake, Welch rare-bit, punch, etc., were invented in England. Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland, all contribute, as does India, Persia, Arabia, and each pay their quota, in sour-krout, raisins, parmera, bolognas, curacao, rice, sago, soy, potatoes, etc. The consequence is, that a Parisian dinner is perfectly cosmopolitan.

[The translator here omits two Meditations, which refer exclusively to Paris is 1825. Few Frenchmen NOW would understand them, and none but a Frenchman could.]

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:51