Gastronomy is the study of food and culture, with a particular focus on gourmet cuisine. One who is well versed in gastronomy is called a gastronome, while a gastronomist is one who unites theory and practice in the study of gastronomy.
Etymologically, the word "gastronomy" is derived from Ancient Greek γαστήρ, gastér, "stomach", and νόμος, nómos "laws that govern", and therefore literally means "the art or law of regulating the stomach". The term is purposely all-encompassing: it subsumes all of cooking technique, nutritional facts, food science, and everything that has to do with palatability plus applications of taste and smell as human ingestion of foodstuffs goes.
Gastronomy involves discovering, tasting, experiencing, researching, understanding and writing about food preparation and the sensory qualities of human nutrition as a whole. It also studies how nutrition interfaces with the broader culture. Later on, the application of biological and chemical knowledge to cooking has become known as molecular gastronomy, yet gastronomy covers a much broader, interdisciplinary ground.
The derivative gourmet has come into use since the publication of the book by Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste. According to Brillat-Savarin, "Gastronomy is the knowledge and understanding of all that relates to man as he eats. Its purpose is to ensure the conservation of men, using the best food possible."
Works on gastronomy
There have been many writings on gastronomy throughout the world that capture the thoughts and esthetics of a culture's cuisine during a period in their history. In some cases, these works continue to define or influence the contemporary gastronomic thought and cuisine of their respective cultures.
- Apicius: A 5th Century collection of Roman recipes by the gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius. Contains instructions for preparing dishes enjoyed by the elite of the time.
- Suiyuan shidan (隨園食單) : An 18th Century manual on Qing dynasty Chinese Cuisine by the poet Yuan Mei, which contains recipes from different social classes at the time along with two chapters on Chinese gastronomic and culinary theory.
- The Physiology of Taste: A 19th Century book by Chef Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin that defined classic French cuisine. The work contains a large collection of flamboyant recipes from the time, but goes into the theory on preparation of French dishes and hospitality.
- Apicius English translation
- Suiyuan Shidan (隨園食單) English translation
- The Physiology of Taste (La Physiologie du goût) English Translation