Grimod De La Reynière

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GRIMOD DE LA REYNIÈRE. Named Alexandre-Balthazar-Laurent by an aristocratic mother and a farmer father, Grimod de la Reynière (17581837) was a rich eccentric with extravagant ways. He began a career as a theater critic but became one of the first to develop French gastronomic literature through the eight volumes of his L'Almanach des gourmands, which he published from 1803 to 1812. He originated the double genre of food critic and restaurant guide, providing practical information as well as critical standards. These were formulated by his jury of tasters, twelve friends who met weekly at the five-hour dinners he staged in his Paris home.

In 1808 his Manuel des amphitryons, a condensation of the material of the almanac, established the idea that the consuming public wanted guidance from an authoritative judge. The application of judge and jury to table matters was appropriate to the chaos of post-Revolutionary Paris and to the beginning of public restaurants during the transition from "ancient" to modern French cuisine. Such autocratic judgment created enemies and, forced to leave Paris in 1812, La Reynière sent out a public notice of his death and staged a funeral banquet in order to predict, accurately as it turned out, how very few friends would attend. He spent the rest of his life in retirement in the countryside, married to the actress who had been his mistress.

La Reynière's influence in creating a critical guide for bourgeois consumers and gastronomes in the newly democratized theaters of the table, in houses and in restaurants, extends to this day. While the prose and outlook of his contemporary gastronome, Brillat-Savarin, were more humane, Grimod's delight in staging dining scenes that were theatrically absurd and macabre, a sort of cuisine noire (black-comedy cuisine), is peculiarly modern.

See also Brillat-Savarin; Chef; France .


Béarn, Pierre. Grimod de la Reynière. Paris: Gallimard, 1930.

Desnoiresterres, Gustave. Grimod de La Reynière et Son Groupe; D'après des Documents Entièrements Inédits [Grimod de La Reynière and his group; from unedited documents]. Paris: Didier et cie, 1877.

Grimod de La Reynière, A. B. L. Grimod de La Reynière: Écrits Gastronomiques [Gastronomic writings]. Paris: Union Générale d'Éditions, 1978.

Mennell, Stephen. All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present. Oxford and New York: Blackwell, 1985.

Rival, Ned. Grimod de La Reynière: Le Gourmand Gentilhomme. Paris: Le Pré aux clercs, 1983.

Betty Fussell

Grimod's fondness for the flesh of game and that of actresses is evident in this fanciful recipe:

"Stuff an olive with capers and anchovies and put it in a garden warbler. Put the garden warbler in an ortolan, the ortolan in a lark, the lark in a thrush, the thrush in a quail, the quail in a larded lapwing, the lapwing in a plover, the plover in a red-legged partridge, the partridge in a woodcockas tender as Mlle Volnais, the woodcock in a teal, the teal in a guinea fowl, the guinea fowl in a duck, the duck in a fattened pulletas white as Mlle Belmont, as fleshy as Mlle Vienne, and as fat as Mlle Contat, the pullet in a pheasant, the pheasant in a duck, the duck in a turkeywhite and fat like Mlle Arsène, and finally, the turkey in a bustard."

Larousse Gastronomique, p. 532

"The local wine, a dinner at your friends' house, and music performed by amateurs are three things to be equally dreaded."

Larousse Gastronomique, p. 531

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Grimod De La Reynière

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