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From its intriguing opening question—"How can we reasonably judge a meal?"—to its rewarding conclusion, this beautiful book picks up where Brillat-Savarin left off almost two centuries ago. Hervé This, a cofounder (with the late physicist Nicholas Kurti) of the new approach to studying the scientific basis of cooking known as molecular gastronomy, investigates the question of culinary beauty in a series of playful, lively, and erudite dialogues. Considering the place of cuisine in Western culture, This explores an astonishing variety of topics and elaborates a revolutionary method for judging the art of cooking. Many of the ideas he introduces in this culinary romance are illustrated by dishes created by Pierre Gagnaire, whose engaging commentaries provide rare insights into the creative inspiration of one of the world's foremost chefs. The result is an enthralling, sophisticated, freewheeling dinner party of a book that also makes a powerful case for openness and change in the way we think about food.
Part One: The Beautiful Is the Good
1. The Existence of a Culinary Art
2. Artisanal versus Artistic Cuisine
3. Tradition and Love
4. The Question of Nature
5. The Recognition of a Culinary Art
Part Two: Classical Ideas of Beauty
6. The Origin of Beauty
7. Beauty by Numbers
8. The Idea of Flavor
9. Aristotle and Subtlety
Part Three: Beauty in the Middle Ages
10. The Path to the Mystical Good
11. Of Cooking and Cathedrals
12. Boethius and the Brain
13. Thomas Aquinas and the Green of the Grass
14. Drawing Earth Nearer to Heaven
Part Four: Artistic Creativity Unbound
15. Medieval Ramifications
16. The Occult Influence of Aristotle Lives On
17. The Dawn of the Renaissance
18. From the Renaissance Onward
19. The Enlightenment in the West and the East
20. Nature Overcome
Part Five: The Present and Future of Cooking
21. The Many Strands of Modernity
23. And Tomorrow?
24. Simplicity and Completeness
25. The Illusion of the Perfect Bouillon
Hervé This is Research Chemist at Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique and the author of Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking, among other books. Pierre Gagnaire is chef and owner of many restaurants, including Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire, Paris.
"What we have here is a true work of genius. This should be required reading for everyone interested in gastronomy!"—Chef Charlie Trotter, author of Raw