“Whoever did not live in the years before 1789 can never know how sweet life could be!” exclaimed Charles Maurice Talleyrand-Périgord. Up to then, a primary source of happiness in France, certainly for some, was the daily ritual of eating well. In the years following, Eugène Briffault tells us in his 1846 work, Paris à table (“Paris at the Table”), the Revolution’s leaders were remembered “as being sober and showing little concern for the pleasures of the table.” Those who showed, whether by birth or inclination, insufficient civic enthusiasm paid a heavy price. But even when awaiting execution for incivisme, many of Talleyrand’s noble colleagues clung to the last vestiges of that sweet life, ordering salmis de bécasse and bottles of Volnay into...


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