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The Oxford Companion to Food 2nd Ed Hardcover – October 15, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 907 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2nd edition (October 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192806815
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192806819
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 8.9 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #392,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This outstanding culinary reference is destined to become a classic, and Davidson, the book's editor and the author of many of its entries, deserves the eternal gratitude of researchers everywhere. With its 2650 alphabetically arranged entries as well as 39 longer articles on staples such as rice, the range of the work is impressive. Everything from individual ingredients, cooking terms, and prepared dishes to national cuisines and cookbooks and their authors is covered. Each entry is written in a clear, engaging style often seasoned with a dash of wit. The result is a perfect complement to another standard culinary reference work, Larousse Gastronomique (Crown, 1988. reprint), edited by Jennifer H. Lang. While there is some overlap, libraries will need both titles in their reference collections since each has its own strengths. Larousse includes recipes with many of its entries and often provides cooking hints, while Oxford provides more extensive treatment of plants, herbs, and even insects used in cooking and usually has more information on national cuisines. Even when the same topic is featured, such as ancient Greek cooking, there is enough difference in information between these two sources that readers will want to consult both. Highly recommended.AJohn Charles, Scottsdale P.L., AZ
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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I'm still looking for another book to occupy me so thoroughly, for so long.
Elliot Essman
Each entry contains the history and use of that item, yet it's written in a manner that's as entertaining as it is informative.
Anne Papina
So, if you are a foody who must own every notable book on food, then buy this.
B. Marold

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

94 of 103 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Simply the best new book about food in years. An extraordinary compendium of knowledge, brilliantly put together and superbly written. Amazing amount of research went into a book that looks at food around the world. A great companion to Larousse and other great books on food. Fascinating to browse through.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Elliot Essman on June 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Pengiun Companion (in its hardcover original the Oxford Companion to Food) runs more than a thousand pages and contains more than 2500 entries on every plant and animal product, every cooking tradition and technique, of any relevance to the well-schooled cook. It is universal in its scope, yet at the same time, how can I put this, British. A team of eminent culinary scholars put this one together. Now I know you're wondering, before anything else, if the flightless bird of the Antarctic itself is edible. The answer is, with some reservations, yes. The book's 500-word entry on its namesake ingredient shows at once the usual detail and characteristic humor of the Companion's approach. We are told that we are often reminded of the penguin by the paperback edition of a book or by "observing at social functions those few Englishmen who still dress up to look like waiters or penguins-it is never clear which." The problem with the technically edible penguin is that it eats only fish and hence tastes strongly like its diet. The penguin is most important in the food chain for the guano it leaves as waste, an excellent fertilizer. South Africans eat the eggs of some species of penguins.
British foods-"Yorkshire Pudding," "Cheshire Cheese," Scottish Haggis," and scores of others less known to us-get thorough treatments of course, but so do foods from all over the globe. One need only look at the companions to the "Penguin" entry in the Penguin Companion to learn something new about two quintessentially American food traditions. Move one up alphabetically from "Penguin" and you learn the essence of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking: the "interplay of sweet flavors against salty ones," sweet apples, for instance, combined with salty ham.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This heroic effort to describe every aspect of food is replete with concise information, smart essays on many topics, and a sharp sense of humor. You will not be able to put it down.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Received this book for Christmas. I couldn't have received a better gift, and haven't for a long time. Excellent entries on almost all foods, many of them new to the USA and many from other cultures. I will keep this as a reference. One search for an answer inevitably leads to another..fantastic!
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth L Block on March 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A few months ago I took over cooking chores in my family. One of the things I missed was a comprehensive reference which was easy to use. No longer. Covering everything from Aardvark to Zucchini, this book has become indispensable. The entries are not only informative, but are written in plain English, so you don't have to be up on the latest cooking jargon to understand what you're reading. If you need more information, the book has a far-ranging Bibliography. One note: The "Index" really isn't one. It's a translation table you can check if the item you're looking for isn't in the alphabetical listing.
Enjoy this book. It's fun to just dip into and read randomly as well as a useful kitchen appliance.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on October 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
`The Oxford Companion to Food', edited by the noted English culinary writer and diplomat, Alan Davidson is a foody reader's compendium to lots of interesting articles about sources, history, some people, and most places regarding food and drink. It is quite properly named a `companion' rather than an `encyclopedia', since, unlike the seemingly similar `Larousse Gastronomique', it contains no recipes whatsoever. This is not an accident or oversight, as Davidson clearly states in the introduction that this was an editorial policy from the outset.

This book has a distinctly British flavor about it with its selection of article topics. While there is an excellent longish article on Elizabeth David, easily the most important British food writer of the 20th century, there are no articles on either Julia Child or James Beard, the two most popular and well known American food writers. Alternately, there is an excellent article on M. F. K. David who is much less well known even among Americans. Child and Beard are mentioned but once at the end of an article on American cookbook writing. This choice is an excellent symptom of what this book is all about. It is not about cooking so much as the writing about food culture. While Child and Beard were cookbook writers par excellence, David and Fisher dealt less with food than they did with appetites, impressions, scholarship, and recollections?

The book is oddly selective in other ways. It has an article of goodly length on H. J. Heinz, but nothing on Milton Hershey. These two men are, in the United States, of at least equal renown; they were contemporaries, and both set up their businesses in Pennsylvania at about the same time.
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