Some general definitions define gastronomy either as “the art and science of good eating”, the activity and knowledge involved in preparing and appreciating good food, or as the study of the relationship between culture and food. I for one think that gastronomy is all of the above and a bit more.
The word “gastronomy” is derived from the Ancient Greek words gastros (stomach) and nomos (knowledge or laws that govern), however the etymology of the word is also attributed to the title of a French poem from 1801 called “Gastronomie”.
Although the foundations of modern Western gastronomy were laid during the Renaissance, especially in Italy and France, the first formal study of gastronomy is probably “The Physiology of Taste” by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in the early 19th century. This was the first book that studied the relationship between the sense and food, treating enjoyment at the table as a science.
The concept of gastronomy has evolved from its original dictionary meaning to a point where it needs to be studied broken down into subsets by culture. Gastronomy nowadays is an interdisciplinary activity combining the Fine Arts of dancing, painting, the dramatic arts, sculpture, architecture and music with exact sciences like physics, mathematics, biology, geology, chemistry, agronomy as well as with the subjects of anthropology, history, philosophy, sociology and psychology. All of these quite many and different subjects of interest can be found with the aide of good observation to revolve around food in one way or another.
The concept of gastronomy isn’t limited anymore to just beautifying the ritual of consumption; today’s gastronomy implies the ability to appreciate and understand the many avenues of cooking and food production. Today’s gastronomist needs to have some basic knowledge in respect with the chemistry and physics of food, food history , culinary anthropology and to have somewhat of a link to the many cultures of the world with the help of the computer and the Internet.
Today’s gastronomy aficionado needs to have a good understanding of agriculture, aquaculture and the technology of newer cooking methods and equipment. He or she need to understand the impact of eating and diet upon health, including things like food-borne diseases and worldwide ecology. The lessons of gastronomy need to promote how to taste, how to savor the whole dining experience, whether it is a family meal at home or a special dining-out event.
Unfortunately in later times, the tendency to judge food solely by what it looks like has increased. Almost everywhere in the modern world taste and aroma are demoted in favor of stylistic architecture, people no longer savor and appreciate the joy and satisfaction of eating and the entertaining and pleasant conversations over the dinner table seem to have disappeared entirely.
The time has come for us to relearn or reemphasize how the senses can be used to fully appreciate and relish the hedonistic pleasures of life. We as human being are equipped with the necessary anatomy and physiology the boring biological function of eating to one of life’s greatest pleasures.