Palate In Revolution Grimod De La Reynie - Giles MacDonogh First a link to the wikipedia page, if you want a quick review of his biography: Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de La ReynièreI first heard of Grimod de la Reynière from The Supersizers Eat...The French Revolution, a really fun episode in a BBC series that I wish was easier to find on the tv schedule. The passing reference intrigued me, and when I started trying to find more information - well, read the wikipedia and note the sources. Luckily I was able to get a copy of this book - most of the other works are in French and/or not easily available.The book is split into sections - chapters one through four (Preface through The Eclipse of a Gourmond, ending on page 108) deal with Grimod's biography. The next two chapters contain short entries describing various foods and methods of cooking them, taken from various writings of Grimod. It's like reading a cookbook and a book of witty quotes all in one, and it did make me hungry. Some of the recipes have additional information added by the author (some of the methods and ingredients need explanation) in case the reader wants to attempt them - but the information won't give you exact temperatures and measurements, so be prepared to improvise. (I haven't tried any of them. But many sound tasty.)A danger (to those of us who love to buy more books) of a book like this is getting caught up with secondary characters and wanting to know more about them. Such as a friend of Grimod, Nicolas-Edme Rétif (his wikipedia page). He sounds interesting and possibly amusing - but like Grimod, tracking down an English translation of his work is a difficulty. (I have a handful of years of French language study in my past, but I've never been quick at translating. Sadly. Also there's a difficulty of any slang from the 1700s that would be hard to track down.) Still, I'll be keeping an eye out for his book Monsieur Nicolas.Also mentioned is a contemporary of Grimod - Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (wikipedia page, with links to free Gutenberg ebooks), and here I should admit I'd only heard of him thanks to his quote in the opening lines of the original Iron Chef tv show. However since one of his ebooks is in translation (and free) I'll be adding that to my reading list, primarily because of the esteem Grimod holds for him: "Beside him I'm no more than a kitchen skivvy." (P 166) Speaking of other characters - one of the confusing things in the book is that Grimod's mother is referred to as Madame de La Reyniere - but every now and then also as Suzanne-Elizabeth. For some reason I could never remember who Suzanne-Elizabeth was and had to keep referring to the index to remember - ah right, that's his mother. I've read other books from this period of history, and it helps to know that the reference to Amphitryon isn't exactly referring to just the character of Greek myth:wikipedia link: "...This work [a play by Plautus] inspired Molière's highly successful Amphitryon (1668). From Molière's line "Le véritable Amphitryon est l'Amphitryon où l'on dîne," the name Amphitryon has come to be used in the sense of a generous entertainer, a good host; the French word for "host" is in fact "amphitryon;" its Spanish cognate is "anfitrión" and its Portuguese "anfitrião"."And now some quotes, to give you a better idea of the book than my re-tellings could:p. 7 "...Ten months after her wedding she went into labour with her first child - the only one to survive infancy. To the horror of her husband and herself, Alexandre was born deformed. At the end of this left arm was a sort of claw like that of a bird of prey, and on the right there was a pincer, joined by a membrane as on a duck's foot. The noble godparents who were to have attended his baptism were put off on the pretext of the child being so ill he was unlikely to survive the week......The parents soon had it put about that the disability had come about by the child's having been inadvertently dropped into a pigpen, the inmates, those 'Kings of Base Beasts,' then eating the little boy's hands; the obvious intention was to remove any stain from the child's heredity. As he grew up Grimod had false hands fitted and Monselet, one of his earliest biographers, informs us they were 'made out of iron and springs and covered with white [pig?] skin gloves.' "An infamous banquet leads to his imprisonment (it's complicated, part is that Grimod made insulting remarks concerning his parents during it) - I'll just quote excerpts of the description to give you an idea:p. 22 "So many versions of the events of that night exist, that it is difficult to know which to believe. ...Even the invitation, in the form of a faire-part for a funeral, has been recorded in many forms......This curious invitation was crowned in the case of the seventeen guests by a catafalque surmounted by a cross. p. 23 ...The dinner was stage managed by Dazincourt, the acting-teacher of Marie-Antoinette. and following a contemporary affection for the antique, which was equally present in the paintingsof the fashionable David, the supper was set to imitate a Roman coena....When all the guests had arrived, Grimod entered the room, dressed in his advocate's robes, and asked the assembled company to follow him into a pitch-black room. A few minutes passed and then twin doors opened to reveal a room lit by 365 lights a l'antique. The room was draped in black and a catafalque set up in the middle of the table. A balustrade went all the way around the room, guarded by two halberdiers....Nothing is known about the meal which followed except that the first course was composed entirely of pork and the second was cooked in oil.p. 24 ...As the evening wore on (the supper did not end until seven in the morning), the public were admitted to watch the festivities from the balustrade, and were offered biscuits and refreshments to keep them going through the night. ...One of the lawyers was so upset by the evening that he got up to leave, proclaiming: 'They will send you to the madhouse and strike you from the list of members of the Bar.' Grimod responded by locking the doors to the apartment and preventing any further guests from leaving. Coffee and liquers were taken in an adjoining room lit by 130 candles while the guests were entertained by a magic-lantern show and some experiments with electricity performed by the Italian physicist Castanio. M Rival tells us that many of the guests fell asleep."Did I mention that his mother and her lover dropped by at one point and were in crowd of onlookers? And that Grimod said of them (aloud): "And these great relics console themselves together." I'll add that his mother was already not fond of Grimod.Since Grimod's friend Nicolas-Edme Rétif couldn't make the banquet, Grimod simply re-staged a second one, a duplicate of the first. Retif wrote of it in his book Monsieur Nicholas, which is quoted. One part I must also quote:p. 26 "...The waiting maids' hair served, in Roman fashion, as napkins for greasy fingers."First, ew. Second, I've not read about that in histories of Rome. So of course that deserves later research. Not that I doubt it - but it's too weird not to try and find out more.