The Oxford Companion to Food

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9780192115799: The Oxford Companion to Food

Twenty years in the making, here is the long-awaited magnum opus from one of the world's great authorities on the history and use of food. This Companion is packed with 2,650 delightfully written A-Z entries--including 39 feature articles on staple foods--the vast majority penned by the renowned Alan Davidson, with additional articles by over fifty specialists from as far afield as the Philippines, Norway, and Australia.
The coverage is spectacular, with the most wide-ranging treatment ever of foods and food products and how to use them. Indeed, the Companion covers everything--plant products, meats, birds and eggs, dairy products, nuts, fish and all seafoods, plant foods, cereals, and exotic foods. Davidson examines famous dishes from around the world--from cassoulet, croque-monsieur, and couscous, to spam, sherbet, and sonofabitch stew. There are over 140 entries on national and regional cuisines (Cajun cooking, Pennsylvania Dutch). Even Antarctica is included in this unique panorama. Other subjects covered in depth include food preservation, culinary terms and techniques, food science and diet, cookbooks and their authors, and the role of food in culture and religion. The book is enhanced by some 180 exquisite illustrations of foods by Laotian artist Soun Vannithone, ranging from the comfortingly familiar to the bizarre and rare. In fact, the common and the exotic mingle throughout, with the everyday (apples, apricots) and the exotic (akee, ambarella, baobab) found side by side.
Here then is a true cornucopia, offering all the flavors, styles, and staples of the world, past and present, from classical Greek and Roman cookery to modern Australian and Hawaiian cuisines. Food historians, food scientists, food writers, chefs, restaurateurs, amateur cooks, and everyone with a serious interest in cooking--and eating--will feast on this authoritative reference on food.

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Review:

Alan Davidson's Oxford Companion to Food has been over 20 years in the assembling, but here it is; and it is superlatively worth the wait. In fact, superlatives fall silent. A huge and authoritative dictionary of 2,650 entries on just about every conceivable foodstuff, seasoning, cuisine, cooking method, historical survey, significant personage, and explication of myth, it is supplemented by some 40 longer articles on key items. Davidson himself (no relation to this reviewer) contributes approximately 80 percent of the 2,650 entries, thereby guaranteeing high levels of erudition, readability, and deadpan feline wit. Since this is a monument intended to last, nothing so frivolous as a recipe is included. A decision taken early in the development of the project to abjure issues whose significance is largely topical has also ensured an agreeable high-mindedness--nothing on those crucial but essentially dreary topics of BSE and GM foods, for example.

If a fault could be found, it would only be that it's often difficult to read to the end of an entry, as the abundant cross-referencing all too easily sends one off to another entry, thence bouncing off to another, and all too soon the original is forgotten. A random alphabet of seductions might include: Aardvark, Botulism, Cup Cake, David (Elizabeth), Enzymes, Fat-Tailed Sheep, Gender/Sex and Food, Hallucinogenic Mushrooms, Ice Cream Sundae, Jewish Dietary Laws, Kangaroos, Lobscouse, Microwave Cooking, Norway, Offal, Puffin, Queen of Puddings, Roti, Scurvy, Termite Heap Mushroom (or Taillevant), Umeboshi, Vegetarianism, Washing up (a very elegant little article), sadly no X, Yin-yang, and Zabaglione. As this might show, Alan Davidson's aim, borrowed from Dumas's great Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine, that his work would appeal not only to persons of "serious character" but also those "of a much lighter disposition," is utterly fulfilled. --Robin Davidson, Amazon.co.uk

About the Author:


Alan Davidson is a distinguished author and publisher, and one of the world's best-known writers on fish and fish cookery. In 1975 he retired from the Diplomatic Service--after serving in, amongst other places, Washington, Egypt, Tunisia, and Laos, where he was British Ambassador--to pursue a fruitful third career (his first was in the Navy in World War II) as a food historian and food writer extraordinaire. Among his popular books are North Atlantic Seafood and Mediterranean Seafood. He and his American wife Jane live at World's End in Chelsea, London.

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Alan Davidson
Editorial: Oxford University Press (1999)
ISBN 10: 0192115790 ISBN 13: 9780192115799
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