The Table Comes First

Family, France and the Meaning of Food

Transplanted Canadian, New Yorker writer and author of Paris to the Moon, Gopnik is publishing this major new work of narrative non-fiction alongside his 2011 Massey Lecture. An illuminating, beguiling tour of the morals and manners of our present food manias, in search of eating’s deeper truths, asking “Where do we go from here?”

Never before have so many North Americans cared so much about food. But much of our attention to it tends towards grim calculation (what protein is best? how much?); social preening (“I can always score the last reservation at xxxxx”); or graphic machismo (“watch me eat this now”). Gopnik shows we are not the first food fetishists but we are losing sight of a timeless truth, “the table comes first”: what goes on around the table matters as much to life as what we put on the table: families come together (or break apart) over the table, conversations across the simplest or grandest board can change the world, pain and romance unfold around it–all this is more essential to our lives than the provenance of any zucchini or the road it travelled to reach us. Whatever dilemmas we may face as omnivores, how not what we eat ultimately defines our society.

Gathering people and places drawn from a quarter century’s reporting in North America and France, The Table Comes First marks the beginning a new conversation about the way we eat now.


Adam Gopnik brilliantly weaves together the history, philosophy, and culture of food with his deep passion for cooking and the shared pleasures of the table. Anyone who roasts a chicken at home or eats chocolate mousse in a restaurant will be forever changed by this book. I loved it!”
—Ina Garten
“I need to read anything that Adam Gopnik writes, and this book on food, eating and—it follows—life is a particular feast. His acuity, grace, sensitive intelligence (in short, his brilliance) are, as ever, dazzlingly displayed and yet with the lightest of touches.”
—Nigella Lawson
“Adam Gopnik’s writings about food are highly intellectual and profoundly witty, while also being warm and personal and rooted in common sense. He thinks hard about the routines of the table, and makes you think too.”
—John Lanchester

  “The perfect book for any intellectual foodie, a delicious book packed with so much to sink your teeth into.”
—Padma Lakshmi, author, actress, model, and host of the Emmy-winning Top Chef