On WNYC’s podcast Science Diction, listen to Rebecca Spang recount how restaurants evolved from chic Parisian “soup spas” to the diverse, loved (and sorely missed during the pandemic!) solid food eateries of today:
“Witty and full of fascinating details.”—Los Angeles Times
Why are there restaurants? Why would anybody consider eating alongside perfect strangers in a loud and crowded room to be an enjoyable pastime? To find the answer, Rebecca Spang takes us back to France in the eighteenth century, when a restaurant was not a place to eat but a quasi-medicinal bouillon not unlike the bone broths of today.
This is a book about the French revolution in taste—about how Parisians invented the modern culture of food, changing the social life of the world in the process. We see how over the course of the Revolution, restaurants that had begun as purveyors of health food became symbols of aristocratic greed. In the early nineteenth century, the new genre of gastronomic literature worked within the strictures of the Napoleonic state to transform restaurants yet again, this time conferring star status upon oysters and champagne.