This almanac in no way contains that which one might presume from its title such as the names and addresses of the great Gourmands of the capital, which would not be useful to anyone. But rather, it gives a reasoned explanation of everything there that might flatter sensuality, which could be helpful to many people.
The reversal of fortunes, as a necessary result of the revolution, having placed them in new hands, and the minds of most of these newly rich turning especially toward purely animal pleasures, it seemed to render them a service to offer them a sure guide to the most solid part of their dearest affections. The hearts of the majority of opulent Parisians have suddenly metamorphosed into gizzards; their sentiments are no longer anything but sensations and their desires only appetites; it is therefore to serve them appropriately to give them in a few pages the means of creating, in the arena of fine dining, the best possible party for their propensities and their budget.
For the rest, the pleasures one owes to cuisine have always held a distinguished rank amongst everything that mankind brings together in society. To vex the Stoics, one must confess that they are the first that one experiences, the last that one abandons, and those that one can taste the most often. For many people, the stomach in all situations is the first principal of all happiness; and it would be easy for us to prove that, amongst all men, this viscera influences, more than one might think, the moral destiny of life.
But without losing us here in metaphysical discussions, which might not be understood by all of those for whom we write, and which pertains to philosophy much more than to cuisine, we return to the principal purpose of this Almanac, which is to guide and enlighten Gourmands in the labyrinth of their gustatory pleasures.*
If one imagines a rich man loaded with gold, charged with the need to dispense it, and under the tutelage of an ignorant or roguish chef, one senses how necessary our little work was. Our Midas, without guidance in this vast project, will ruin himself without earning any honor, and malicious parasites will still mock him and the hospitality that he will have offered them; which in spite of being expensive, will nevertheless quite often be detestable.
If the rich man, by contrast, possesses a grounding in the topography of France’s food provisions, or even, in lieu of this, only that of Paris; if he knew the rapport of the seasons with the products; if he knows how to reason with his appetite and manage it according to unvarying and certain principles; then, if, presiding himself over his purchases, he makes them at the proper time and in appropriate stores, he will find then that he has resolved the problem that Harpagon’s steward proposed to Master Jacques and that no cook — past, present or future — has ever wanted to understand and will probably never understand that:
of making a fine table with a small amount of money.**
One sees that on this last point, our Almanac will become no less useful for small fortunes as it is for opulent houses.
In a work of this nature, it was necessary to follow a regular plan and to proceed with a sort of method. The title of our book has organized it firstly in its arrangement; and the twelve months of the ancient Calendar (because the modern one cannot yet adapt itself to this division) forms as many chapters dedicated to the food products corresponding to these eras.
We will afterward take a few Nutritional Walks in Paris and we will stop willingly in the stores best designed to excite the appetite with their selections and to satisfy by their reasonable prices.
We will, on this small Voyage, simultaneously offer something new: the exact addresses of and particular details about the most famed Artists who create sought-after foods. And one will see that if the Revolution in France was funereal for the majority of the arts, that of cooking, far from having suffered, owes to it its rapid progress and its dynamic activity.
Finally, under the title, “Varieties,” we bring together a few previously unpublished anecdotes, a few fragments of morality, and a few original details, which, returning to the core of our work, will bring together everything about the food arts, whose greatest glory we have taken up.
It remains for us to solicit the Public’s indulgence for this small piece of writing, which cannot attain any bit of perfection except through what may follow. This, in a way, is no more than a sort of first stab. But if you give us the opportunity to repeat it each year, we will benefit from the wisdom, which will have been communicated to us; and this Almanac will then doubly merit the title of The Gourmands’ Almanac because it will become at one and the same time their guide and their creation.
We add, in finishing this long Preface, that the Editor, who for reasons of modesty prevents us from making him known, permits us to announce that, as the son of a father who was deemed to have kept one of the most sought-after tables in Paris, and descended from a grandfather who died in the field of honor, which is to say, the aftermath of an indigestion caused by pâtés de foies gras, he has more than many others, perhaps, the qualifications and means to give the Public The Gourmands’ Almanac.
N.B. The rush with which this small work was conceived, written, compiled, and even reprinted, exposes us, without doubt, to many reproaches and complaints. We will go forward with a word. This is that perfection is the daughter of time; and if many artists and attractive stores are still missing from our list, pride should not at all hasten them to complain and to condemn us. Without other resources than what he could himself draw upon for this publication, the Author had to necessarily leave many blanks in it. It is to all those whom it interests to want to truly help us fill them in. An absolutely complete anthology in this field would be the creation of twenty years of care, research, work, and thought.
*In the second edition, the phrase “understood by” is toned down to “to the taste of”.
**Another reference to Molière’s Le Misanthrope (The Miser), III, 1.
(c) Carolin C. Young, 2013.