Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Quotable Tuesday: Brillat-Savarin Philosophizes

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.

I chose this oft-cited, super famous quote by oft-cited, super famous gastronome and godfather of all food writers, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, for two reasons. First, it is the longer, more nuanced version of the folksy phrase "you are what you eat" - it's familiar for a reason. Because it's true.

Of course, the added texture in the Brillat-Savarin edition evokes something a little more elaborate than the traditional American phrasing. Growing up, my interpretation of "you are what you eat" went something like this: "if I eat my vegetables, then I'm healthy, so I'm good." It had nothing to do with enjoyment or appreciation, just a vaguely Puritanical sense of obligation to be a better person through healthy eating.

Examining the quote in light of today's ethical eating discussion brings out some of the same feelings in me (just modify "vegetables" with "locally grown, organic and seasonal"). But I am nearly positive that wasn't Brillat-Savarin's original intent.

Which brings me to the second reason why it's appropriate to kick off the "quotable" feature with this particular phrase. Brillat-Savarin eloquently (and briefly) captures something that I try to explore through blogging: how food defines us as individuals and cultures (and how we make food choices based on our backgrounds).

Ultimately, it sounds like Brillat-Savarin was the very first food anthropologist...

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