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The Cook's Essential Kitchen Dictionary

 

By Jacques L. Rolland
Robert Rose, Inc., Toronto; 413 pp.


Review by Bill Marsano.
Jacques Rolland has undertaken a herculean task here, for compiling a cook's dictionary is harder than ever today. Only a couple of decades such a book would cover the bare bones of American cooking, throw in a lot of French and a little Italian, and that would be that. These days we have a few extra cuisines to deal with-- Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican--and at the same time the old America-French-Italian triad must needs be treated in greater depth.
 
 Jacques Rolland has undertaken a herculean task here, for compiling a cook's dictionary is harder than ever today. Only a couple of decades such a book would cover the bare bones of American cooking, throw in a lot of French and a little Italian, and that would be that. These days we have a few extra cuisines to deal with-- Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican--and at the same time the old America-French-Italian triad must needs be treated in greater depth.
 
So granting that the task is physically impossible (even could such a book be assembled, no one could pick it up without a forklift), it must be admitted that Rolland has done a terrific job. He not only explains, defines and identifies without letup or surcease for more than 400 pages, he does it briskly and informatively: What he tells you will stick with you. And he lards his definitions with lore and tradition as well. In all, this book is not only useful but entertaining, which is what food itself should be. There are good black-and-white illustrations (drawings, not photos), and too bad there aren't more of them. Still, this book is a pleasure just to dip into now and then for a quick "snack," and it belongs on the nightstand as well as in the kitchen. Might be a good idea to buy two copies, come to think of it.
-- Reviewer Bill Marsano is a James Beard Award-winning writer of wine and spirits, and a determined if somewhat dangerous home cook.

 

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