Oh Restaurant, From Whence Thou?: Background information when reading An Appetite for Violets

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

An Appetite for Violets

A Novel

by Martine Bailey

An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey X
An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Jan 2015, 400 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

Oh Restaurant, From Whence Thou?

This article relates to An Appetite for Violets

Print Review

Thermopolium in Pompeii While buying ready prepared food outside the home has been an intrinsic part of urban culture in Europe from the earliest of days (as can be seen by the many thermopoliums in Pompeii), in the modern era, in general the upper classes, especially the women, would not have chosen to eat a meal outside of a private home - except in the direst circumstances, such as extended travel. They looked upon food that was prepared elsewhere with distrust, even disdain. With no overarching standards or regulations, they felt there was no way of knowing whether such food was fresh, or that kitchens were clean, or even that the cook knew what s/he was doing.

Taverns, inns and boarding houses often served food, but this was secondary to their main purpose of offering alcohol or housing. Even so, what food they served was whatever the kitchen had on hand on a particular day, whether fresh or kitchen scraps. There were no choices. If mutton stew was the meal du jour, that was it, like it or not. If it had been three days' meal du jour, well… Additionally, meals were taken at a communal table with whatever and all riffraff that frequented the establishment.

Cafe ProcopeThen in the second half of the 18th Century, a bright French entrepreneur noticed that most members of the privileged class suffered from a disorder then known as weak-chestedness – what we call either indigestion or acid reflux - from dining on overly rich, heavy food. So, according to Rebecca Sprang in her book The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomy, in 1766, Mathurin Roze de Chantoiseau opened an establishment called Maison de Santé, or house of health on the rue Saint Honoré. At the time, the word "restaurant" meant, literally, restorative, which was a fine meat broth served in delicate china cups. The Maison's clientele dined at individual tables in a lavishly decorated mirrored dining room. They paid a fixed price and dined at their leisure, not necessarily at the same time as every other patron.

Before Ms. Sprang published her book, the general consensus held that a man known as Boulanger set himself against Paris's powerful caterers' guilds when he opened an establishment near the Louvre in 1765 that offered a choice of dishes. The caterer's guild sued - and lost. Over the next 20 years leading up to the French Revolution, many similar shops opened all over Paris. When Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI went to the guillotine, the old ways of French society went with them. The guilds were swept away and many chefs employed in aristocratic, even royal, households found themselves unemployed. Many of these displaced workers opened their own restaurants in Paris, bringing with them a new way of dining.

Tom's DinerApparently there remains some level of controversy over whether Boulanger or de Chantoiseau opened the first restaurant. So both accounts are mentioned here so as not to take sides. Regardless, restaurant service soon expanded to include a menu or bill of fare from which patrons could choose from a variety of dishes; appetizers to desserts.

There is no stopping an idea whose time has come, and restaurants quickly began sprouting up all over the Western world. In the United States, the concept of dining establishment emerged at approximately the same time as it did in France and Europe, although the term "restaurant" was not commonly used until the 19th Century. Words like "restorator" or "eating house" were more common.

The restaurant industry got a huge boost with the dawn of the Industrial Age when trains and eventually automobiles and airplanes enabled travel for both pleasure and business.

Café Procope, an early restaurant, and said to be the oldest in continuous operation, courtesy of Mu
Tom's Restaurant, courtesy of Maksim

This "beyond the book article" relates to An Appetite for Violets. It first ran in the February 18, 2015 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Brother
    by David Chariandy
    Brother is the brief, moving account of how a single, tragic moment in time can alter the course of ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Islamic Enlightenment
    by Christopher de Bellaigue
    In this comprehensive and well-researched history, de Bellaigue examines the evolution of Islamic ...
  • Book Jacket: The Spy of Venice
    The Spy of Venice
    by Benet Brandreth
    Benet Brandreth's delightfully diverting historical thriller brings the Bard to vibrant life. ...
  • Book Jacket: Three Things About Elsie
    Three Things About Elsie
    by Joanna Cannon
    The novel opens with the primary narrator, Florence, prone on the floor after a fall. She is in her ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

A crowning achievement of one of the finest American writers at work today.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    French Exit
    by Patrick deWitt

    A brilliant and darkly comic novel from bestselling author Patrick deWitt.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Clockmaker's Daughter

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

A rich, spellbinding new novel from the author of The Lake House. On sale Oct 9.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

T Turn T S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.