Book Review: “A Revolution in Taste: The Rise of French Cuisine” by Susan Pinkard

If footnotes indicate anything, I’d argue that Susan Pinkard’s “A Revolution in Taste” is perhaps the best-researched text available on French culinary history. Pinkard has clearly done her homework, and her book is both comprehensive and concise, and for me, it represents one of the great recent surveys of food and culture. Published in 2009, “A Revolution in Taste” may prove a bit scholarly for the casual gourmet, but for the student of Western cuisine, the book offers an approachable and well-documented account of the culinary trends that evolved from the Greco-Roman Era to the French Revolution. Along the way, Pinkard explains how medicine, exploration, philosophy, and an ever-changing social climate helped to forever transform the way people eat. My one criticism with the book, though it may be slightly unfair, is that I wish Pinkard had pressed further into the 19th and 20th centuries. I do understand that, in terms of ingredients and techniques, French cuisine has not changed nearly as dramatically over the last 200 years as it had previously, but at the same time, it also seems somehow remiss to stop short of Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935), who continued to improve and perfect the modern professional kitchen. Then again, with a book this well researched, I suppose it’s always natural to wish for more.

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