A Glimpse Into Parisian Dining Life (in 1846)

Posted June 25, 2018 5:15 p.m. EDT

An eye-opening chronicle of French dining from 1846 has just been fully translated into English.

The author, Eugène Briffault, was a journalist, gastronome, editor and critic who frequented the upper echelons of French society in the mid-19th century, a time of prosperity, indulgence and refinement. His book starts with dining habits in earlier eras and goes on to provide often acerbic commentary on the scene of his time, when Paris was considered to be the center of the culinary world. The book is filled with observations that still apply, like how the newly affluent display money but no taste, how female cooks are undervalued, how offseason vegetables please the eye but not the palate, and how tourism can be credited for the city’s cosmopolitan outlook.

He suggests that “to be happy with the waiter, make sure the waiter is happy with you,” and notes that Parisians tossed their salads with about 500,000 gallons of vinegar a year. He covers the rich, the poor and even hospital food: “Paris à Table 1846” by Eugène Briffault, translated by J. Weintraub (Oxford University Press, $24.95)