Much gets written about Paris’s food markets and shops. However, words such as ‘locally grown,’ ‘seasonal’, and ‘heritage’ too frequently get bandied about by contemporary food writers, whose historical knowledge often derives more from imagined fantasies of ‘the good old days’ than from documented facts. This blog provides a window into what people were buying and eating in the French capital two centuries ago and how it compares to what is available in today’s city. It closely follows the seasonal guide to Paris published in 1803 in the opening section of the world’s first serially published food journal, the Almanach des Gourmands by Alexandre Laurent Grimod de la Reynière (1758-1838).
If many of the shops and restaurants described by Grimod de la Reynière no longer exist, his ‘Calendrier nutritif,’ (nutritional calendar), remains as relevant as when it was written just over two hundred years ago. My hope is to bring this consummate gourmand’s wit and wisdom to life by marrying his words with my own observations gleaned from meandering through the markets and perusing the libraries.
Because my intention is to open a dialogue between contemporary food writers and historians as well as between experts and amateurs, I will also post the full text of the 1st edition of 1803 (noting the revealing changes made in the second edition for uber-geeks) and, for the first-time ever, a complete English translation of it.
My own comments about Paris then and now derive from years of study and experience as a resident of the city. Although a native New Yorker, I have based myself in Paris since 2004 and led walking tours and ‘annotated lunches’ for Context Travel since 2007 and can be booked for private tours via my website.
I am the author of Apples of Gold in Settings of Dinner: Stories of Dinner as a Work of Art (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002), which recounts tales of twelve banquets drawn from the annals of European history, and numerous articles and am a contributor to Zester Daily as well as The Magazine Antiques. Further information about me can be found on my website: