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Alexandre de La Reynière: Father of the table

GrimodDeLAReyniereAlexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de La Reynière (20 November 1758, Paris – 25 December 1837), trained as a lawyer, acquired fame during the reign of Napoleon, for his sensual and public gastronomic lifestyle. Son of Laurent Grimod de La Reynière, he inherited the family fortune on the death of his father, a fermier général, in 1792. He was a member of the Société du Caveau.

Though his father built a stylish house in Paris with a garden that looked onto the bosquets of the Champs-Élysées and kept a great table, the younger Grimod had been born with deformed hands and was kept out of sight, a circumstance that developed his biting wit and dark sense of humour. The younger Grimod de La Reynière began his public career on his return from studies in Lausanne by collaborating in the review Journal des théâtres in 1777–78, continuing to write reviews of theatre, some of which he published himself, as Le Censeur Dramatique. During his parents’ absence he gave grand dinner parties in the Hôtel Grimod de La Reynière, at one of which his father returned suddenly to find a pig dressed up and presiding at the table. The story made the rounds in Paris, and a breach with the family ensued, which culminated in a lettre de cachet that disinherited him and confined him to an abbey close to Nancy, where at the table of the father abbot he began to learn the art of good eating. He was a correspondent to the scandal chronicle, Correspondence secrète, politique et littéraire (1790) relating to Paris during the reign of Louis XVI, and formed a liaison with the actress Adèle Feuchère, who bore their love child in 1790.

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