Monday, November 8, 2010

Toothsome quotations: WASPs vs. YSL

The linguistic philosophers of France, especially the late Roland Barthes, understood how French cuisine and French culture are related, and how both fit with structuralist philosophy. A Parisian dinner is mean to be a single elegant statement, like a well-turned sentence or an outfit from Yves Saint-Laurent. The Anglo-Saxon view of a banquet can be expressed in terms of the history of the world. You begin with soup – water with things swimming in it – then move on to the aqueous kingdom, then to flying creatures, then to mammals. Finally you celebrate man in cheeses and desserts, both products of sophisticated culture. This is the diachronic view, which the French reject. They prefer to see the various courses as syntagms, or sentence components – soup adjective, fish noun, chicken adverb.

-Anthony Burgess, "The Language of Food" in Homage to Qwert Yuiop, found in The Ravenous Muse, Karen E. Gordon, ed.

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