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The New Food Lover's Companion: Comprehensive Definitions of Nearly 6000 Food, Drink, and Culinary Terms


by Sharon Tyler Herbst

I was at first captivated and then consummed by this tiny and yet seriously comprehensive volume years ago when I found one of the first editions. This is the third edition and it is completely amazing how many food, drink and culinary terms can be packed into such a tiny package.
 I love the feel and weight of this book and the ease of which you can use this book to look up terms fast and furiously when you are writing about food. The rounded corners on the pages make this a book you can flip through very easily and it is all pleasantly alphabetical.

Did I say this was Comprehensive? For food lovers this reaches a point of inspiration unlike any other book on food I've found. I love having so much information all in one book. It is literally a food dictionary which describes food in all its delicious detail.

This book has received an overwhelmingly enthusiastic acceptance in the culinary community. For home cooks, it is also a real bonus and could be considered an essential compliment to your entire cookbook collection.

This edition has changed slightly. The listings increased to almost 6,000 and there are thousands of food tidbits sprinkled throughout the tantalizing pages of information. I love the historical lore and information on the exotic origins of some of our most innocent and sweet selections. Vanilla is suddenly seductive and is actually native to tropical America.

"The vanilla bean was once considered an aphrodisiac, and was so rare that it was reserved for royalty....The saga begins with the orchid blossoms, which open only one day a year."

There are almost three pages filled with information on this orchid. Who would have known unless you were doing intensive research. Sharon Tyler Herbst has given us an incredible gift by doing the research for us.

If you are unsure of how to pronounce an ingredient, there are pronunciations for all the basic words.

When looking up beef jerky you will be sent to look up "Jerky." So as not to repeat information, this occurs at various times. This allows Sharon to be more extravagant with other entries. Did you know that tomatoes were once called "love apples?"

You can also look up cooking tools like a pastry brush or a mortar and pestle. I think culinary catalog owners should all have a copy of this book because at times I've had to point out the error of their ways when they have listed kitchen tools incorrectly. One had the mortar and pestle reversed in their description and this was very amusing to me at least.

This book may also stir childhood memories. Like when your parents battered and dipped "squash blossoms." As I read, the faint scent of frying blossoms floated through my scent memory. Don't even ask me how hungry I get when I read about key lime pie. To find out more about the actual limes used in the pie, you turn to "lime." Here you learn that the key lime is much smaller and once I realized the difference I was able to buy the correct limes for pies.

I had memories of sitting up in a mulberry tree while reading that there are actually three varieties of mulberries. All I know is we tried to make pies and jam with the ones we picked fresh from this absolutely huge tree when we lived in Africa. They are not as good as youngberries or raspberries, but have a charm all of their own.

If you still are trying to discover foods like Yorkshire Pudding, you will not be dissapointed. However, this book does not contain recipes and so it will send you off hunting in all directions for ways to use the ingredients listed in such a lovely fashion. You may find yourself looking for online catalogs or even online scouting out your newest culinary interests.

Cooking is an amazing journey and you can enjoy the journey all the more if you have more insight into the terms, definitions, origins and lore of food. Now I feel compelled to go make more biscotti and definitely need to make crullers if I could only find my recipe.

I guess my only complaint is that this book does not contain pictures. For that you will have to search elsewhere. Perhaps a copy of "Cooking Hints & Tips" by Christine France would be helpful to new cooks. "Cooking A-Z" by Jane Horn is a beautiful discovery. "The Cambridge World History of Food" by Kenneth F. Kiple is extensive and another must-have "encyclopedia" of food.

If you have not yet discovered "The New Food Lover's Tiptionary" it is also a must read and is "also" by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

Reviewer: The Rebecca


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