In this ground-breaking work, Robert Appelbaum travels through time, space and the annals of literature and history, asking some basic questions. What is a restaurant, for example, and what and who is it for? Originating in pre-Revolutionary France but now widespread throughout the developed world, the restaurant has always been the locus of contradictory emotions. While the restaurant encourages conviviality, cosmopolitanism and generosity, it also fosters inequality, alienation and bad faith. The restaurant stands for a kind of liberation: the embrace of pleasure for the sake of pleasure and sociability for its own sake. But it also encourages narcissistic consumerism, advanced at the cost of the exploitation of restaurant workers. Can the restaurant nevertheless be seen to promote the interests of cultural democracy? The same question has been posed by such famous literary figures as Grimod de la Reyniere, Jean-Paul Sartre, M.F.K. Fisher and Isak Dinesen, as well as contemporary critics and commentators.Appelbaum takes the reader on a journey in search of the social values of good eating, whether sampling fare at Catalonian bistros, Italian-American chophouses, global fast-food joints or temples of haute cuisine in London, Paris and New York. Dishing it Out is the first book to interrogate the social mores of the restaurant. It will be an important book for scholars in food studies, cultural studies, history and literary studies. It will also provide compelling reading for gourmands with a conscience and an appetite for stimulating prose.