Reading – In The Restaurant: Society in Four Courses by Christoph Ribbat (Translated by Jamie Searl Romanelli) – 20 in a series

I’ll be highlighting books that I am reading (or re-reading) on all sorts of topics this year — Douglas

Reading – In The Restaurant: Society in Four Courses by Christoph Ribbat (Translated by Jamie Searl Romanelli) – 20 in a series

I love books that focus on very specific areas of history — like building the Duomo in Florence, the painting of the Sistine Chapel, the California Gold Rush — because it is through the focus on the “small” history that I believe we better illuminate the “big” picture of the past. “In The Restaurant” provides just such historical illumination by showing the reader a history of the restaurant from its humblest beginnings to its most outrageous (and expensive) modern examples. Through this history lies a huge story of the catered and those that cater to them, the workers and those who employ them, the stark differences between the carefully orchestrated scene in the dining room and the humble, hot and harried scene behind the kitchen door. Two separated by a small piece of wooden door but infinitely different in character, style, and substance. By learning more about restaurants we earn about history itself an might just see our next restaurant visit in a different — and more illuminating light.


What does eating out tell us about who we are? The restaurant is where we go to celebrate, to experience pleasure, to see and be seen – or, sometimes, just because we’re hungry. But these temples of gastronomy hide countless stories.

As this dazzlingly entertaining, eye-opening book shows, the restaurant is where performance, fashion, commerce, ritual, class, work and desire all come together. Through its windows, we can glimpse the world.

This is the tale of the restaurant in all its guises, from the first formal establishments in eighteenth-century Paris serving ‘restorative’ bouillon, to today’s new Nordic cuisine, via grand Viennese cafés and humble fast food joints. Here are tales of cooks who spend hours arranging rose petals for Michelin stars, of the university that teaches the consistency of the perfect shake, of the lunch counter that sparked a protest movement, of the writers – from Proust to George Orwell – who have been inspired or outraged by the restaurant’s secrets.

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† Available from the LA Public Library

Previously in (Re)Reading:

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