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The Flavor Thesaurus: A Compendium of Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook Hardcover – April 24, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 107 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Erudite and inspiring, practical and fun, it will make you salivate, laugh, take issue and feel vindicated. Your synapses will fire in a whole new way as you trail your hand through your garden herbs … A deceptively simple little masterpiece.”—"Sunday Times" (UK)

“An exquisite guide to combining flavors.”—"Observer" (UK)

“An original and inspiring resource.”—Heston Blumenthal

“Intriguing, surprising and remarkably useful.”—Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

“For new cooks and old hands in the kitchen, this book is a must-have and a must-read. Not only are the flavor combinations and recipes offered useful, but Niki Segnit’s descriptions of each and every one are delightful to read. It’s a combination between a bedtime read and a kitchen
companion.”—GOOP 

"To savor "The Flavor Thesaurus" fully it helps to think of its author, Niki Segnit, as a culinary marriage broker. An imaginative but practical matchmaker, she has a gift for pairing sometimes lackluster ingredients in a way that brings out the best in them and makes them more appealing as a couple than they ever were as loners... She shares an eloquent vocabulary with us in this delicious book."--"Wall Street Journal"

"The cure for dinner ennui...a cheekily erudite, endlessly fascinating master list of flavor pairings both familiar and surprising...the entries get you dreaming of both exotic feasts and after-work comfort foods.""--Whole Living"

"Erudite and inspiring, practical and fun, it will make you salivate, laugh, take issue and feel vindicated. Your synapses will fire in a whole new way as you trail your hand through your garden herbs ... A deceptively simple little masterpiece."--"Sunday Times" (UK)

"An exquisite guide to combining flavors."--"Observer" (UK)

"An or

About the Author

Niki Segnit's background is in marketing, specializing in food and drink, and she has worked with many famous brands of candy, snacks, baby foods, condiments, dairy products, hard liquors, and soft drinks. She lives in central London with her husband.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Revised edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160819874X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608198740
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Linkletter on October 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book wasn't at all what I expected, but after I accepted it for what it is I really began to enjoy it.

What I Didn't Like

Another reviewer found it to be like a dictionary in its definitions and details. I found it not at all like that. In fact, it is entirely subjective even by the author's own attestation. The "color wheel" of flavors I found to be useless. The copy without a seam from the binding is not even in color. Furthermore, the typeface on that copy is so small as to be unreadable for me without a magnifying glass. Aesthetics aside, the flavor wheel seems primarily presented to demonstrate that the author can cleverly devise a circular table of food flavors. There is nothing stemming from the wheel that will help you determine which flavors go together. It's not anything like an artist's color wheel, with those associated concepts.

What I Came To Enjoy

The author's rather creative idea was to compile a list of 99 foods and/or food types. The and/or is because some of the 99 are extremely well defined, such as "Lemon", while others are very general, such as "Hard Cheese". Regardless, those are how the author sees the universe of food, and as she says, it is her point of view from which she is writing.

Having defined the 99 foods, she set about to locate examples of each one occurring with the other 98. To this end she seems to have spent a rather inordinate amount of time in London pubs, but there are examples from other places and even from other countries. She wasn't able to locate an example for every pair, which is not surprising, although I suppose pubs are where you might find people who would try anything once so that particular bias is explained.
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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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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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