Skip to content

Response to Review of Defining Culinary Authority: the Transformation of Cooking in France, 1650-1830

I am grateful to Max Shrem for his thoughtful review of my book, and to the editors of RiH for commissioning it. Shrem provides a thorough overview of my major arguments, highlighting some of the key contributions that this research makes to French culinary history and European social history. He also raises a question about one of the book's key sources, and I welcome the opportunity to clarify my interpretation and its significance for my larger argument.

Shrem questions my characterization of Grimod de la Reynière's gastronomic texts as patriarchal or conservative. After all, Grimod lauds many women active as public cooks.

I note in my discussion of Madame Cardon-Perrin and her sister Agathe who ran the Marmite Perpetuelle in 1810 that Grimod's praise for these women hinges on the fact that they had taken up their father's successful business, continuing the family's name, reputation, and finances. After the social and political chaos of the French Revolution, conservative opinion sought to restore aspects of traditional family and work organization. I find in this particular review, and many others in a similar vein, evidence that Grimod participated in a broad effort to replace the formal patriarchal order of the trade guilds with a more informal ideal that proved to be remarkably powerful in the following decades. Ironically, these forces eventually shut women out of public cooking even more systematically than had the trade guilds.