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Tasting Notes and Ways of Seeing in Brillat-Savarin, Gertrude Stein and Ford Madox Ford

2nd October 2020 

Nanette O’Brien, Independent Scholar

One of the most celebrated French gourmands and scholars of gastronomy, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), provides a surprising foundation for modernist thinking about taste, sensation, and culture. Brillat-Savarin describes the sensations of taste and muses on the cultural and social powers of food in his Physiologie du gout, or in English: The Physiology of Taste (1825). Two writers associated with modernism – Ford Madox Ford and Gertrude Stein – both spent periods of their lives living in France and had an interest in Brillat-Savarin and in French cookery. In this short essay, I briefly outline Ford and Stein’s relationships to Brillat-Savarin and how he is connected to their interest in French food and culture and to Ford’s Impressionism and Stein’s abstract style. Though this essay is by no means exhaustive, I argue that in looking backwards to an idealised past inhabited by Brillat-Savarin, Stein and Ford formulated their ideas about modern food and culture.[1]

Continue reading “Tasting Notes and Ways of Seeing in Brillat-Savarin, Gertrude Stein and Ford Madox Ford”

Memorial Digging: Ford Madox Ford, Post-War Sussex, and the Potato


Hattie Walters, University of Birmingham 

And I have always believed that, given a digging-fork and a few seeds and tubers, with a quarter’s start, I could at any time wrest from the earth enough to keep body and soul together.[1]

In the first days of April 1919, literary modernist and impressionist Ford Madox Ford was digging in a potato patch at Red Ford cottage in Hurston near Pulborough, awaiting the arrival of his lover, Australian painter Stella Bowen. An empty, seventeenth-century labourer’s cottage, Red Ford felt remote and steeped in history, was full of red-brick and red-tiles, was papered in green moss and costed five shillings a week. It was also damp, leaky-roofed and rat-ridden with rotten lathes and sunken ceilings, but flanked by a great oak, nestled under a sandstone cliff, and facing a meadow, ‘scarlet and orange runlet’ and opposing woodland.[2] The ‘moribund’ plot seemed at first unwelcoming, as Ford described the building creaking with superstition as the ancient rafters worked ‘their sockets in the walls’.[3] However, Red Ford was to be the setting for his attempted post-war restoration: both of self, and of the assumptions that governed daily pre-war life through his biographical garden exploits.

Continue reading “Memorial Digging: Ford Madox Ford, Post-War Sussex, and the Potato”

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