Jean-Anthelme Brillat Savarin was a French epicure (amongst other things) who lived in the late 18th and early 19th century. His famous book, whose full title is Physiologie du Goût, ou Méditations de Gastronomie Transcendante; ouvrage théorique, historique et à l’ordre du jour, dédié aux Gastronomes parisiens, par un Professeur, membre de plusieurs sociétés littéraires et savantes or en Anglais – The physiology of taste, or, Meditations of transcendent gastronomy; a theoretical, historical and topical work, dedicated to the gastronomes of Paris by a professor, member of several literary and scholarly societies is a genuinely joyful read and offers fascinating insight into the eating habits, society, etiquette and more of France at this time.
Penguin publish a translated version (the somewhat more snappily titled The Philosopher in the Kitchen), and I have a copy from 1970. Brillat Savarin (or ‘The Professor’ as he liked to affect) discourses with gusto in a series of essays and meandering anecdotes on a wealth of diverse subjects connected with eating. Chapters include ‘On the pleasures of the table’, ‘The theory of frying’, ‘Eggs in Gravy’, ‘Philosophical history of cooking’ and loads of other great things.
Although it contains some directions on food preparation it is not a recipe book. I am not proposing to cook anything from it just yet, but what I think would be fun would be to post (ir)regular excerpts from it for our delection and amusement. I’m going to start with a recipe for Tunny Omelette from the chapter ‘The Curé’s Omelette’. This should give us a taste for Brillat Savarin, but is by no means the most exquisite of his writings.
Recipe for Tunny Omelette
Take, for six persons, two soft carps’ roes, was well, and blanch for five minutes in slightly salted boiling water.
Have ready a piece of fresh tunny, about the size of a hen’s egg, and a small shallot, cut in pieces.
Chop up and mix well the roes and tunny, place the whole in a pan with a sizeable piece of the best butter, and fry until the butter is thoroughly melted. This is what gives the omelette its special flavour.
Then take a second piece of butter, at discretion, mix parsley and chives into it, and place in the fish-shaped dish intended for the omelette; squeeze the juice of one lemon over it, and place on the fire.
Next beat up twelve eggs (the fresher the better); add the fried roe and tunny, and mix thoroughly.
Then cook the omelette in the usual way, taking care to make it long, thick and soft. Turn it out neatly into the dish prepared as above, and serve at once.
This dish is to be reserved for special breakfasts, gatherings of connoisseurs who know what they are about and eat deliberately; if it is washed down with good old wine, wonders will be seen.