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The Flavour Thesaurus Hardcover – June 21, 2010

53 customer reviews

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Hardcover, June 21, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The art of combining one food with another to create flavor harmonies has challenged earnest cooks for centuries. A good deal of science underlies this attempt to codify the senses’ reactions, but in the last analysis, flavors either taste good together or they don’t. Segnit, who has made a career creating and marketing new products, has set down what she’s discovered over the decades about which flavors harmonize with one another. She readily acknowledges the general success of such traditional pairings as lamb and mint, asparagus and mushrooms, garlic and basil, cucumber and dill, and bacon and eggs. But she goes on to explore more obscure and unusual combinations including watermelon and chili, horseradish and beets, Parmesan and pineapple, oysters and chicken, and even bacon and chocolate. Any aspiring culinary student will find this an invaluable reference work, and home cooks may find equal inspiration in Segnit’s creative ruminations. --Mark Knoblauch --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.


'A deceptively simple little masterpiece' Sunday Times 'An exquisite guide to combining flavours' Observer 'An original and inspiring resource' Heston Blumenthal 'It has intrigued, inspired, amused and occasionally infuriated me all year, and will for years to come' Nigel Slater, Observer Books of the Year

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; 1St Edition edition (June 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747599777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747599777
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.3 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,380,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A. Person on February 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was keen to get my hands on this book as I was fed up with the idea that the hobby cook's role is one of 'follower of recipes'. The primary stated aim of the book was what you might imagine - to examine pairings of certain flavours. An admirable aim tackling a poorly represented segment of the market, and although I feel Ms. Segnit has made a fair start in this area, I'm not convinced she has achieved what she set out to do.

I will start with an example, because I can see from the number of people who have found the non-5-star reviews helpful that there are either a lot of fans of this book (itself worth bearing in mind - mine is only one opinion) or a lot of friends of Segnit. This first example, a full entry (i.e. not a snippet of one), is one that I picked out at random:

'Pea & Oily Fish: According to New England tradition, gardeners make sure to plant their peas by Patriot's Day (19 April), in the hope that they'll be ready for the traditional Independence Day feast of poached salmon, fresh green peas and new potatoes. Strawberry shortcake is served for dessert.'

Now, this is vaguely interesting. It tells me about a culinary tradition in a part of the world I have never visited. What it doesn't tell me is why that combination might be good, how good it is, what kinds of oily fish might go better with peas, what it is about the flavour of peas that might complement, offset, balance, overpower, augment or improve the flavour of the fish, etc. The book is full of this kind of entry.

However, for the sake of balance I would also like to mention that the book does occasionally present some very interesting information on certain ingredients and flavours: their history, what separates them from similar ingredients, etc.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By bookish mom on November 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is on my Hannukah Hot List this year. I bought it for my brother in law who is an adventurous cook and ended up buying one for myself and a few others on my list. Love this book for a few reasons - 1) it's an immensely practical source of kitchen inspiration - it's organized around the flavor wheel by simple food pairings. Start by whatever food you have in the house and you will be connected to a range of unexpected flavor partners for it and often some great starting recipes 2) Important to the time-starved and culinarily challenged like myself - many of these ideas are not complicated recipes or even cooked, just food/spice combinations. It gets you back to the intensity and simplicity of good quality ingredients and flavors (if only we had the intensity the basic ingredients like tomatoes and basil that the author must experience in Europe, but Wholefoods or farmers markets are a good start). Some of these flavor pairings will push you out of your palate's comfort zone and are worth trying out of curiosity - eg Juniper and Hard Cheese, Watermelon and Oysters, Lobster in Vanilla Butter etc. You can see why Heston Blumenthal the experimental chef behind egg and bacon ice cream gave this book a rave review. Lastly, it's full of interesting food history and food trivia (eg rhubarb leaves are poisonous, artichokes contain a chemical that inhibits the palate from tasting sweet flavors etc) and I love these kind of books - my other faves include 'Salt' and 'Cod' by Mark Kurlansky and 'Wicked Plants' by Amy Stewart). It doesn't have any pretty pictures or photos, but I think it will be a kitchen staple. Mine's already covered in stains which is a good sign..
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Third Time Lucky on July 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book has had stunning reviews in the British national newspapers, and I decided to buy it as a present for my husband, the chef in our household. On the tube home, I had a quick flick through it out of curiosity...and I haven't been able to part with it since.

The concept of `The Flavour Thesaurus' is utterly, utterly genius. Segnit has taken 99 basic flavours (mint, coriander, basil, strawberry etc) and researched 980 pairings of them. The result is part recipe-book, part food memoir, part flavour compendium. (The English Language geek in me feels compelled to point out that `thesaurus' is a misnomer - even similar flavours are NOT synonyms, jeez, though the book retains Roget's format).

Some of these pairings are familiar, such as Bacon & Egg, whilst others (Avocado & Mango, anyone?) are not. Now and then, Segnit provides a recipe; many of these sound incredible, and despite being the most amateur of cooks, I reckon even I could manage many of them. Under Melon & Rose, for example, she merely tells you to drown a cantaloupe melon in rosewater syrup, so that it tastes like "a fruity take on gulab jamun". Can you even read that sentence without wanting to dash to the supermarket for the ingredients?

Segnit also peppers the book with restaurant and dish recommendations - not in an insufferable shiny London lifestyle way, but in an enthusiastic, unpretentious, eating-out-with-your-mates "you really have to try this" way. If only she had supplied phone numbers so we could immediately make reservations.

The real revelation, though, is Segnit's language. Put simply, it's superb.
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