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The Food Snob's Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Gastronomical Knowledge
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The Food Snob's Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Gastronomical Knowledge [Paperback]

David Kamp , Marion Rosenfeld , Ross Macdonald
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 9, 2007
Food Snob n: reference term for the sort of food obsessive for whom the actual joy of eating and cooking is but a side dish to the accumulation of arcane knowledge about these subjects

From the author of The United States of Arugula--and coauthor of The Film Snob’s Dictionary and The Rock Snob’s Dictionary--a delectable compendium of food facts, terminology, and famous names that gives ordinary folk the wherewithal to take down the Food Snobs--or join their zealous ranks.

Open a menu and there they are, those confusing references to “grass-fed” beef, “farmstead” blue cheese, and “dry-farmed” fruits. It doesn’t help that your dinner companions have moved on to such heady topics as the future of the organic movement, or the seminal culinary contributions of Elizabeth Drew and Fernand Point. David Kamp, who demystified the worlds of rock and film for grateful readers, explains it all and more, in The Food Snobs Dictionary.

Both entertaining and authentically informative, The Food Snob’ s Dictionary travels through the alphabet explaining the buzz-terms that fuel the food-obsessed, from “Affinage” to “Zest,” with stops along the way for “Cardoons,” “Fennel Pollen,” and “Sous-Vide,” all served up with a huge and welcome dollop of wit.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

DAVID KAMP is a writer and editor for Vanity Fair and GQ, and the author of The United States of Arugula, The Film Snob’s Dictionary, and The Rock Snob’s Dictionary. He lives in New York City. MARION ROSENFELD, a writer and producer, has spent her entire career in media, much of it food related. She lives in New York City. ROSS MacDONALD’s illustrations have appeared in many magazines, from The New Yorker to The Wall Street Journal. He illustrated The Film Snob’s Dictionary and The Rock Snob’s Dictionary.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Acme Bread Company. Gold standard of ARTISANAL bread baking in the United States, based in Berkeley, California, and founded in 1983 by former CHEZ PANISSE busboy and house hunk Steve Sullivan, who was inspired to try his hand at baking while reading ELIZABETH DAVID’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery during an overseas bike trip in his college years. Ferociously devoted to hand–formed loaves and organic ingredients, Acme has a lower profile than the corporate–artisanal brands it inspired, New York’s Tom Cat Bakery and Los Angeles’s La Brea Bakery, but it enjoys a greater mystique, largely due to Sullivan’s ponytailed, shamanistic presence and refusal to sell his wares much beyond the Bay Area. Picked up an Acme herb slab at Monterey Market en route to the Orville Schell lecture.

Adrià, Ferran. Spanish chef of appropriately surrealist, Dali–esque mien who functions as a lightning rod in the Food Snob debate over whether MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY is bracingly innovative or overwhelmed by gimmickry. The popularizer of the vegetable FOAMS that reviewers loved in Spain in 1998 but jadedly condemn in America now, Adria, who operates out of a coastal Catalan resort called El Bulli (The Bulldog), combines a DayGlo aesthetic with a FERNAND POINT fealty to getting the most flavor out of his ingredients, resulting in such weird–ass but surprisingly edible creations as a sardine skeleton enshrouded in cotton candy and skinless green–pea raviolis that look like Dr. Seuss egg yolks. I clocked some Ferran Adrià influence in those fruit soups that we sucked down from medical syringes.

Affinage. The process whereby young cheese is refined and matured, usually in a cave or climate–controlled chamber. The anointed cheese-coddler, known as an affineur, rotates the cheese and beats, brushes, and/or washes it until it is a point and ready to be savored. In the latest manifestation of cheese–course mania, some American restaurateurs now employ their own affineurs, though no one has yet made the logical, inevitable step of marketing home affinage units in the vein of SUB–ZERO wine–storage units.

Asian street food. Increasingly chic trope-inspiration among chefs and restaurateurs (e.g., Jean–Georges Vongerichten and Anthony Bourdain) who have eaten their way through Saigon, Rangoon, Singapore, Bangkok, and Jakarta, and have somehow decided that they have seen the future of all cuisine. My new place will combine Viennese-bordello decor with a menu inspired by Asian street food—pho, satays, potstickers, all that shit.

Bain-marie. Overwrought term for “double boiler,” deployed especially by retailers trying to sell expensive, purpose–built double–pot sets to status–hungry home cooks, even though it’s easy to improvise a bain–marie with garden–variety roasting and sauce pans. Oddly, the marie part of the term (bain is simply French for “bath”) comes from an ancient alchemist known as Mary the Jewess, who believed that using a double boiler’s indirect heat simulated the natural processes by which precious metals formed.

Baum, Joe. Brash, cigar–chomping aphorist–restaurateur (1920-1998), beloved by restaurant professionals, unknown to laypeople, and therefore a god to Snobs. Working first for the New York hospitality company Restaurant Associates and later on his own, Baum was adamant that fine dining in America didn’t have to be toe–the–line French, a vision that he sometimes executed successfully (the Four Seasons, Windows on the World) and sometimes not (the Roman–themed Forum of the Twelve Caesars, featuring gladiator helmets as ice buckets, and the Newarker, a white–linen restaurant romantically set in…Newark Airport). A reliable quote machine for food journalists (e.g., “When in doubt, flambe”), Baum is often credited with/blamed for coining the word foodie. The boob–like double pineapple upside–down cake with Medjool dates for nipples was vintage Baum.

Beebe, Lucius. Poncey, immaculately turned–out American society writer and gourmand of the screwball–comedy era (1902-1966), best known for his florid New York Herald Tribune columns of the 1930s and ’40s, in which he recounted his social adventures as a walker par excellence and his elaborate feasts at gouty Gilded Age–throwback hotel dining rooms. Though verbose to the point of lunacy (“The good life continues unabated in Hollywood even as in the days of hammered silver handset telephones and the first fine floodtide of early ordovician Goldwynisms”), Beebe was one of the first name writers to take fine dining seriously as a subject, earning him the grudging respect of Snobs.

Berkshire pork. Upmarket pork from purebred swine of British pedigree, redder in flesh, more marbled in texture, and richer in flavor than standard, bland American pork (which is justly described as “the other white meat”). In the nineteenth century, some Berkshire pigs were exported to Japan as a diplomatic gift from the Brits, resulting in the pork’s popularity there under the name Kurobuta (“black pig”), a term unnecessarily bandied about by American butchers and restaurateurs looking for a WAGYU–like profit margin. Everything on the menu tonight is outstanding, but I’d especially recommend the loin of Berkshire pork with chestnuts and appleCalvados chutney.

Blumenthal, Heston. Yobbish–looking but floridly intellectual English practitioner of MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY. Besotted with the works of HAROLD McGEE, Blumenthal, an untrained cook who opened a modest bistro called the Fat Duck in a Berkshire village in 1995, started fiddling with his food as his confidence grew, pairing white chocolate with caviar, fashioning a “sardine on toast” sorbet, and using a liquid–nitrogen bath to prepare a frozen green–tea quenelle with lime foam. Result: his first Michelin star in 1999, and three stars by 2004. Less resolutely molecular than the futurist FERRAN ADRIA and the self-serious Grant Achatz of Chicago, Blumenthal writes a column for the Sunday Times of England in which he provides tweaked, home–achievable recipes for such traditional dishes as spaghetti bolognese, fish and chips, and black forest cake.

Butter-poached lobster. Sumptuous lobster preparation popularized by THOMAS KELLER at the French Laundry in the 1990s and since imitated, CRUDO–style, by restaurants across the land. The lobster is par–cooked, its meat removed from the shell, and then the meat is finished off in a pan, where it cooks slowly and gently in a water–butter emulsion, or beurre monte, resulting in an even richer dining experience and suggestive MOUTHFEEL than the normal boiled lobster with drawn butter. The saffron risotto was topped off with a curled tail of butter–poached lobster: “Unnhh,” groaned my blissful companion after her first bite.

Cardoon. Vegetable of the thistle family, related to the artichoke, though treasured for its celery–like stalk. Long a staple of Italian cookery, the cardoon has gained popularity among Snobs for its versatility (it’s good raw in salads or cooked in soups) and the frisson of pleasure one gets from saying its name.

Carême, Antonin. Social–climbing prettyboy French chef (1783-1833) who transcended his origins as a low–born pastry cook to become the greatest authority on French cuisine of the nineteenth century, concocting elaborate gorgefests for such clients as the French statesman Talleyrand and Alexander I, the czar of Russia. Though Carême is a necessary namecheck for any Snob who purports to know his culinary history, he is often cited in Snob discourse in unflattering counterpoint to French chefs of later eras. The Troisgros brothers unabashedly embrace peasant fare; not for them the lofty pretensions of Carême.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter (October 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767926919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767926911
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 4.8 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #377,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Over the last 20 years, David Kamp has carved out a dual career in "proper" journalism and humor writing: like Calvin Trillin's, only far less respected and lucrative. He is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine and the author of national bestseller "The United States of Arugula: The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution" (selected as one of the New York Times's Notable Books of 2006), as well as the "Snob's Dictionary" series of humorous lexicons: "The Rock Snob's Dictionary," "The Film Snob's Dictionary," "The Food Snob's Dictionary," and "The Wine Snob's Dictionary."

Kamp got his start at Spy magazine, the seminal satirical New York monthly, while still in college in 1987. He was later an editor and writer for GQ magazine, and, since 1996, has been writing full-time, with his work appearing in Vanity Fair, GQ, and the New York Times, among other publications. His interests include food (the subject of "The United States of Arugula"), pro football (he has profiled Tom Brady, Troy Polamalu, and Tony Romo for GQ, but, alas, none of his beloved New York Giants), and, especially, music (he profiled the reclusive Sly Stone for Vanity Fair and also wrote of Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash's moving late-in-life friendship for that magazine). Above all, Kamp is uncomfortable writing self-aggrandizing words about himself in the third person.

Kamp, who is currently at work on another sweeping work of nonfiction, lives in Greenwich Village and rural Connecticut with his wife, two children, and dog. His author site, which is occasionally actually updated with fun stuff, is at

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a slippery slope to food snobbery October 23, 2007
This compact book wasn't exactly what I was expecting. Given that it's a dictionary obstensibly for "food snobs," you might think it would show them some respect. But this dictionary, while quite informative, was completely irreverent and downright snarky. To be honest, I really found myself chuckling as I read the entries.

The "definitions" included culinary terms (molecular gastronomy, artisanal, crudo), procedures (brining, expedite, plating), famous chefs (Alice Waters, Marcus Gavius Apicus, James Beard), gourmet foods (speck, crepinette, fennel pollen), food purveyors (Dirty Girl Produce, Cowgirl Creamery, Niman Ranch), and kitchen equipment (bain-marie, All-Clad, Global Knives). Often, the word being defined is used in an illuminating sentence, such as, "Ever since Chef got his own TV show, he hardly ever cooks anymore; basically, he comes in two nights a week just to EXPEDITE and scream at us like a dick." Oh, and did I mention the foul language? Didn't offend me in the least. Actually, it cracked me up, but that's me.

Aside from the humor, there is a lot of good information here for the person looking to learn about both current trends and culinary history. As a San Franciscan, I was impressed by how many local food purveyors these New York authors included in their book. But they're not just bi-coastal, the mid-west was represented as well. If you're interested in the subject, this book is worth picking up to assess your personal snobbery quotient--or perhaps potential.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great dictionary, great fun October 15, 2007
Now you too can show off like a seasoned snob in the the finest restaurants. It used to be all one needed was an attitude and a working knowledge of the French language to show off in a great restaurant. But that was before terms like artisanal and zabaglione invaded. Now, thanks to the tireless efforts of the clever and funny writer David Kamp, all you need is this Food Snob's Dictionary hidden in your purse or back pocket. I never leave home without it. My friends are all impressed with my new found knowledge of food. Oh, and it's darn fun to read too.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Self-deprecating humor always works November 11, 2007
Self-deprecating humor always works, especially when it conveys useful information. With just the right amount of words, this book is not only fun, it is very informative. Specially useful are the 'how to use in a sentence' bits. A great holiday gift.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quick read, great for deflating the snob at any table! January 20, 2008
By Pezzi
This is a tasty little book to have on hand as a quick, fun, read between big serious novels. Very informational as well as silly, something that the snobs wouldn't want to fold into their Mousseline!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much Better Than Arugula February 16, 2008
Wow no one is a bigger food snob than me but there was not one useful food term left out of this dictionary. I looked and looked and looked. I had some issues with the Broccolini segment but overall a grand job by all involved. This is a much better book than United States of Arugula! Oh and I did find one omission in the " W " section the word "wine" is not there. Strange since that is a vital part of any food snobs meal. Nevertheless I have read every food book on the market and this is a STEAL at these prices and real handy when you need to know your Quince from your Quinoa!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous fun if you're a foodie February 29, 2008
By P. Cole
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The foodie mystique unmasked. This book has all the trivia that a real foodie needs to know, presented in a fun format!
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1.0 out of 5 stars What a boring, snobby book!! January 16, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dull, dull.. for snobs only. I've never seen such poor instructions in any book. Do you want to cook or go to sleep?

L. Boyd, Chicago
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