From A.J. Liebling’s Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris
The Proust madeleine phenomenon is now as firmly established in folklore as Newton’s apple or Watt’s steam kettle. The man ate a tea biscuit, the taste evoked memories, he wrote a book. This is capable of expression by the formula TMB, for Taste>Memory>Book. Some time ago, when I began to read a book called The Food of France, by Waverley Root, I had an inverse experience: BMT, for Book>Memory>Taste. Happily, the tastes that The Food of France re-created for me- small birds, stewed rabbit, stuffed tripe, Cote Rotie, and Tavel- were more robust than that of the madeleine, which Larousse defines as “a light cake made with sugar, flour, lemon juice, brandy and eggs”. (The quantity of brandy in a madeleine would not furnish a gnat with an alcohol rub.) In the light of what Proust wrote with so mild a stimulus, it is the world’s loss that he did not have a heartier appetite. On a dozen Gardiners Island oysters, a bowl of clam chowder, a peck of steamers, some bay scallops, three sauteed soft-shelled crabs, a few ears of fresh-picked corn, a thin swordfish steak of generous area, a pair of lobsters, and a Long Island duck, he might have written a masterpiece.