Biography of Famous Gourmets Anthelme Brillat-Savarin Part 2

About the famous French gourmet Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, his history and biography, information about his love of food and other cuisines.


Portly and gregarious, the sage of Belley remained a bachelor all his life--perhaps too devoted to both food and women ever to marry, possibly because he loved his cousin, the society beauty Madame Recamier. On returning to France, he became a familiar figure in the cafes of Paris, his little dog constantly at his side waiting patiently for an occasional tidbit. Many poked fun at him, but he seemed always to be present at the important dinners of the day, one story having him a guest of the Vicomte Francois Rene de Chateaubriand, on that evening when the succulent steak Chateaubriand was invented in the novelist's honor.

A lawyer who wrote on political economy and law, and penned a few licentious tales as well, Brillat-Savarin seems to have come from a long line of gourmets. Brillat was actually Anthelme's real name--he took on the hyphen and Savarin when his great-aunt, a discriminating diner, left him her entire fortune on the condition that he add her name to his. His sister Pierrette also loved good food. In fact, she died at the dinner table. Almost 100 at the time, her last words are among the most unusual in history: "And now, girl, bring me the dessert!"

Though Brillat-Savarin, too, was something of an eccentric--he often carried dead birds around in his pockets until they became "high" enough for gourmet cooking--his reputation did not suffer from his eccentricities. No food book has yet surpassed his bible of gastronomy, not even Prosper Montagne's classic Larousse Gastronomique. "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are," Brillat-Savarin once declared, and the gastronomic tests in his book have been acclaimed as small masterpieces of psychological insight almost as brilliant as his discussions of food. The book might also be called the 1st diet book (in it the author offers advice on how to stay slim, but inveighs against scrawny women), and gives recipes, plus a series of dinners for various income brackets--the most extravagant including a Strasbourg pate de foie gras in the shape of a bastion, truffled quail, river pike smothered in cream of crayfish, early asparagus with a special sauce, 2 dozen ortolans, and for dessert a pyramid of vanilla and rose meringues. Ironically, the immortal Le Physiologie due Gout had to be printed at Brillat-Savarin's expense, and when his brother later sold all rights to a publisher, he got only $120--after throwing in the author's genuine Stradivarius as well. Fortunately, today The Physiology of Taste is available in quality paperback from Dover Publications, 180 Varick St., New York, N.Y. 10014.

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