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    The Oxford Companion to Food
    by Alan Davidson
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (01 December, 1999)
    list price: $65.00 -- our price: $40.95
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Editorial 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 ofBSE 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 ... Read more

    Reviews (18)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Essential Bookshelf Material
    Anyone who has any interest in food besides simply shovelling it into their mouths should get this superb big book. It took editor Alan Davidson along with countless specialists twenty years to put the project together, Their efforts were worth the wait.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Pengiun On My Cookshelf
    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. The entry covers the usual explanation that the Pennsylvania Dutch aren't really Dutch at all; "Dutch" was originally a term used in America to refer to people who spoke German, a corruption, perhaps, of "Deutsch." Move one entry down from "Penguin" and you get a thorough entry on "Pemmican," the product of hardened preserved meat associated with native North Americans. The word, it seems, is derived from the Cree pimiy, meaning "grease." I've always known that small berries were added to a dried meat and fat mixture to make pemmican, but the Companion postulates a reason: the berries contain benzoic acid, a natural preservative, which inhibits bacterial growth. Skip up slightly and you get a full page on the important spice "Pepper." Move back a few and you get the full story on "Peking Duck." It's all here in exhaustive detail.

    Not everyone is as insane as I was to read every entry, every page, but this masterpiece is truly a good companion. I'm still looking for another book to occupy me so thoroughly, for so long.

    Food writer Elliot Essman's other reviews and food articles are available at www.stylegourmet.com

    5-0 out of 5 stars encyclopedic
    Not only encyclopedic, but fun to read. Author has a sense of humor. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0192115790
    Subjects:  1. Cookery    2. Cooking    3. Cooking / Wine    4. Encyclopedias    5. Food    6. Food Science    7. Food habits    8. General    9. Reference    10. Food & Drink / Cookery    11. Reference works   


    $40.95

    The New Oxford Book of Food Plants
    by J. G. Vaughan, C. Geissler, J.G. Vaughan, Catherine Geissler, C. A. Geissler, B.E. Nicholson, Elizabeth Dowle, Elizabeth Rice
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 November, 1999)
    list price: $25.00
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    Editorial Review

    Not enough tables of contents are enhanced by drawings of nuts, herbs, and root vegetables, but the table of contents in The New Oxford Book of Food Plants is, setting the tone for a book that clearly delights in the glories of the world's bounty. Each chapter, including grain crops and fruits, spices and seaweed, legumes and mushrooms among its 19 topics, is a cornucopia of information and beautiful, educational illustrations. Take the chapter on oil crops, for example. Covering olives, sesame, peanuts, soy beans, sunflowers, and the rape plant, the prose describes where they grow and what the fruits look like, what kind of oil is produced and what it's used for, how it's made and how else the fruits may be used. Color drawings of the plants and their fruits are on the facing page. Put together by writers who respect each plant and give them the attention and detail that spell quality, this is a beautiful book and a charming resource. --Stephanie Gold ... Read more

    Reviews (2)

    5-0 out of 5 stars great gift, reference, and coffee table book
    The original edition of this book was out of print for some years and it is delightful to see it out again, and expanded no less. It combines 2 great virtues: highly readable and informative text with illustrations of a quality that are "suitable for framing." It is a great book for anyone who takes an interest in botany, cooking, or gardening and you couldn't go wrong giving it as a gift to one of these types. It's also great for reference. If you're getting it as a gift I suggest ordering 2, because you'll want one for yourself when you see it.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent for learning about food plants from all over.
    This book is great for learning to identify food plants from all over the world.The illustrations are realistic and each plant is described.I use it to help my 4-H horticulture judging team prepare for the nationaljudging contest.The plants and illustrations in this new edition are thesame as in the original book, however the 1998 edition has an excellentsection on phytonutrients. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0198505671
    Subjects:  1. Cooking    2. Edible plants    3. Farm produce    4. Food crops    5. Nature / Field Guide Books    6. Plants - General    7. Specific Ingredients - Vegetables    8. Vegetables    9. Vegetarian - General    10. Diets & dieting    11. Gardening: plants    12. Plant life: general    13. Reference works   


    Emergence of Agriculture ("Scientific American" Library)
    by Bruce D. Smith
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 February, 1999)
    list price: $19.95
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    Reviews (3)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting account of the origins
    The book was a little slow going.The topic is probably not noted for its exciting appeal.I did enjoy the new information that it provided.The concept of an almost natural change from wild harvested to domesticatedcultigen by virtue of an interface of plant and human needs rather than byconscious efforts on the part of the harvester was interesting.It almostmade the process seem inevitable.The information regarding wild plantancestors of modern domestics, the likely site of origin for and the pathof spread of these plants were also interesting.For some reason I foundthe domestication process of animals somewhat less so.Overall I think thebook would be best used as a resource for information rather than anafternoon read.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Dry but very interesting.
    This colorful book uses a lot of information and statistical facts to bring the development of agriculture ot light in many regions of the world, even often forgot Africa.Plenty of pictures of the changes in plants andplenty of graphs and charts to help simplify all the information.A goodover view of agriculture without getting into individuals findings on thisday or that.A good read.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent survey of the beginnings of farming
    The beginnings of farming c. 10,000 years ago fundamentally changed human societies. Collaboration between archjaeologists and natural scientists has done a remarkable job in unravelling the where, when and whys of this story, but previous publications have concentrated on just or a few oneregions. This is the first truly global survey of the domestication ofplants and animals. It is up-to-date and well written and illustrated, andwould be an excellent starting point for anyone interested in this topic.Readers should note that the paperback edition issubstantially revisedand is therefore preferable to the hardback, which still contains theoriginal text.

    Anyone who enjoys this book will also like JaredDiamond's Guns, germs and steel. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0716760304
    Sales Rank: 739628
    Subjects:  1. Agriculture - General    2. Archaeology    3. Sociology    4. Technology    5. Agriculture & Farming    6. History of engineering & technology   


    The Cambridge World History of Food (2-Volume Boxed Set)
    by Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (14 November, 2000)
    list price: $210.00 -- our price: $210.00
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Editorial Review

    Have the French always enjoyed their renowned cuisine? When did Russians begin to eat pirogi? What was the first Indonesian spice to be cultivated elsewhere in the world? Questions such as these make for good Jeopardy material, but they're far from trivial--just ask anyone with a passion for good food and a curiosity for where that food originated. That person will know instinctively that the best way to approach a culture--and, indeed, the human animal--is through the stomach. For this individual, The Cambridge World History of Food will be something of a bible, and the best of gifts.

    A massive scholarly tome in two volumes and more than 2,000 pages, the CWHF encompasses a wealth of learning that touches on nearly every aspect of human life. (It also reveals the answers to the three earlier questions: No, French cuisine as we know it is a 19th-century development; in the 16th century, following the conquest of the Volga Tatar; ginger, in colonial Mexico.) Thoroughly researched and highly accessible despite its formidable layout, the set addresses a groaning board of topics past and present, from the diet of prehistoric humans to the role of iron in combating disease; from the domestication of animals to the spread of once-isolated ethnic cuisines in a fast-globalizing world. Of greatest interest to general readers is its concluding section--a dictionary of the world's food plants, which gives brief accounts of items both common and exotic, from abalong to Zuttano avocado.

    The product of seven years of research, writing, and editing on the part of more than 200 authors, The Cambridge World History of Food promises to become a standard reference for social scientists, economists, nutritionists, and other scholars--and for cooks and diners seeking to deepen their knowledge of the materials they use and consume. --Gregory McNamee ... Read more

    Reviews (12)

    2-0 out of 5 stars Not a good enough reference to be worth the money
    This is a tremendously expensive reference that one should expect to be trustworthy. But it isn't. Nor is it as definitive as should be expected, though it does have some fascinating entries, such as the role of dogs in the history of food. For the price, there should be line drawings for some of the more unusual fruits and veg, because as it is, the verbal descriptions would lead a reader to think that something looked quite different than it does. So I use these two volumes with caution, referencing further anything said here before I take it as a given. Although some other reviewers here have criticized the dryness of style, that is what I want in this sort of thing, so I have no complaints there. Of far more importance is the slant that many of the articles have, which clearly have a political agenda that the information is wrapped around. So, while the bibliographies for same are useful, they also are selectively chosen. Given the guides to food now, and the many histories, I would think that a few books judiciously chosen are better value than this one reference, though if you are monied, this is an interesting addition to your library, to be read with a grain of salt in every 'Oh, my! I didn't know that.'

    4-0 out of 5 stars Taking a class with the editor
    Argghhhh I have Kenneth Kipple for a teacher, arghhhhh. The greatest use of this book is in the bibliographies at the end of the chapts. Skip the articles and look for the books in the bibliography.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Food for thinking with
    Part of the dissatisfaction among some reviewers is that this book is not a light, cheerful cook-book/dictionary.For those who want something more along those lines, there are plenty of light-weight volumes that purport to tell the story of this or that cooking tradition with lots of nice glossy pictures and maybe more than three accurate facts if you're really lucky.Try Jane and Michael Stern's road trip food voyages for example.

    This two volume set is not for the faint of heart.It is a book for the enthusiast and the professional food historian alike: people who are looking for the social, biological and historical context to the food they enjoy.It is not completely encyclopaedic and there are a few inaccuracies in the identification of plant names and such but these are minor quibbles in the face of the sheer comprehensiveness of the work and the undoubted scholarly care that has gone into its preparation.

    I for one appreciated the early chapters on the archaeology of food. People tend to forget the time depth that surrounds eating as a human activity.This is not surprising in a modern world that emphasizes fast food over aesthetics or knowledge.It's my observation that those who are most interested in food purely as a consumable item seem to have little interest in where it really comes from.For example, one of the great tragedies of modern industrial living is the increasing absence of knowledge of or even respect for the fact that real animals died to provide you with your McChicken Burger, or your Poached Sole in Tuscan Orange Sauce.

    This book is an invaluable reference. I recommend it to all my students in my Anthropology of Food and Eating class, and I myself use it all the time.The Oxford Companion to Food is also a fine volume, and while it is sometimes more useful with regard to specific foods, it is much lighter on analysis and unneccesarily flippant in places.I would recommend that you buy both the Cambridge volumes and the OCF.Together they almost completely fill the reference spot on the bookshelf of the serious student of food.

    To dine well is to touch the face of God ... Read more

    Isbn: 0521402166
    Subjects:  1. Cooking    2. Cooking / Wine    3. Food    4. History    5. World - General    6. ASIA    7. Africa    8. BCE to c 500 CE    9. Europe    10. Food & Drink / Cookery    11. History / World    12. History of specific subjects    13. Modern period, c 1500 onwards    14. The Americas    15. World history    16. c 1000 CE to c 1500    17. c 500 CE to c 1000 CE   


    $210.00

    Seeds of Change:Six Plants That Transformed Mankind
    by Henry Hobhouse
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 January, 1999)
    list price: $29.99
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    Reviews (11)

    3-0 out of 5 stars His own way with words
    This book consists of a collection of historical essays about six plants: quinine, sugar, tea, cotton, the potato, and coca.For each plant, the author provides historical information about when it first began to be used (especially by Westerners), and how its use spread across the planet.Some of the information was quite interesting, particularly since the author is British and presents the material from a British point-of-view, emphasizing facts that may be less familiar to Americans.Unfortunately, no in-text citations are provided, but there is a short bibliography at the end of the book. The essays often spill over into topics that are, at best, only marginally related to the subject at hand, such as an overview of Japanese foreign trade in the tea chapter, or the role of corn whiskey in the economy of the Southern states in the early Nineteenth Century in the cotton chapter.Hobhouse has an interesting habit of giving his own meaning to words, such when he defines "Negro" as being a West African Black with sickle cell anemia, or "husbandry" as applying to plant breeding.He also uses the term "slavocracy" to refer to the political situation in the pre-Civil War South, presumably on analogy with "democracy" and "theocracy", but in those words, the first root identifies the rulers, not the ruled.This book may provide a light introduction to some of the topics covered, but I wouldn't rely on it for serious study of an academic nature.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An insightful book
    I havn't read this book in a while but came across an editorial by Hobhouse recently and I thought I'd check to see if it's still in print.I recall some rather strange notions about our 'current' lack of fiber in our diet and the dire effect it may have, but in most areas where he dosn't rangetoo far afield it's a good read.A reader above found the book racist but I don't recall anything like that.If you like Hobhouse try to dig up Edgar Andersons ' ' Plants Man and Life'.Not an inspired title but a very good book as well.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An insightful book
    I havn't read this book in a while but came across an editorial by Hobhouse recently and I thought I'd check to see if it's still in print.I recall some rather strange notions about our 'current' lack of fiber in our diet and the dire effect it may have, but in most areas where he dosn't rangetoo far afield it's a good read.A reader above found the book racist but I don't recall anything like that.If you like Hobhouse try to dig up Edgar Andersons ' ' Plants Man and Life'.Not an inspired title but a very good book as well. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0333736281
    Sales Rank: 1017333
    Subjects:  1. Nature/Ecology   


    The Plant-Book : A Portable Dictionary of the Vascular Plants
    by D. J. Mabberley
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (19 June, 1997)
    list price: $75.00 -- our price: $75.00
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Reviews (3)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Just the Best!
    I purchased this reference a few years ago.Once I received it and began using it, I wondered how I'd ever gotten along without it.The author's British and so the dictionary's common names are more often "British" than "American", but it is still the handiest plant dictionary I have.It is a little larger than pocket size, but it is still small enough to be held comfortably in one hand.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A review is superfluous
    This book does not need a review. Anybody who is involved in plants, otherthan the garden kind, knows full well that this is an essential reference.Quite up to date too, which is pretty amazing in view of the pace thatscience sets. There is an enormous mass of data in here, printed on verythin paper, making for a very handy book that will fit a spot near whereyou need it, which is likely to be often.

    5-0 out of 5 stars My most used reference book
    As a graduate student in ecology I often encounter unfamiliar genera in the literature, and a quick peek in Mabberley gives me enough taxonomic grounding to keep plowing ahead. By constantly referring to this book, Ihave greatly improved my knowledge of plant relationships. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0521414210
    Sales Rank: 305534
    Subjects:  1. Dictionaries    2. English language    3. Ferns    4. Flowers    5. Gardening/Plants    6. Latin, Medieval and modern    7. Life Sciences - Botany    8. Nature / Field Guide Books    9. Nomenclature    10. Plant names, Popular    11. Plants    12. Science    13. Seed-Bearing Plants (Spermatophyta)    14. Botany & plant sciences    15. Science / Botany    16. Trees & wildflowers   


    $75.00

    The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug
    by Bennett Alan Weinberg, Bonnie K. Bealer
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (September, 2002)
    list price: $22.95 -- our price: $13.97
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Reviews (16)

    3-0 out of 5 stars Well-researched but somehow boring
    This book is really well-researched.All you ever wanted to know about caffeine is in this book.The problem is that the authors stuff the book with so many facts and quotes from other books/treatises that they make it unreadable.This is especially true for the historical part (first part of the book).If you want to know about the history of caffeine, I would not buy this book.The book also has a lot of very interesting statistics and facts, and just for that reason, I will keep it.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, Original
    We hear a lot about the evil of stimulants. Amateur doctors who get their info from infomercials or Aunt Clara have begun to equate beverage/food stimulants with tobacco, alcohol and those absurdly misnamed "recreational" drugs.There is no comparison between being a zoned-out zombie and perking up to a Pepsi or cafe latte.Those who don't see this need a reality check. In fact, I am sipping a Dr. Pepper as I write (and, I might add, without a twinge of guilt.)

    Caffiene is a modern development, especially the refining and concentrating of its powers.It emerged from the shadows in the Industrial Society and was indispensable in the conversion from a society of alcholic stupor to one that would revolutionize the world.The origins of both coffee and tea are quite similar - both being recognized for their medicinal purposes.Both had strong religious opposition (Islamic and Catholic) and both developed rituals and sites dedicated to the imbibing of the liquid.

    Coffee and a few other naturally occurring plants also contain caffiene.The scientific section was too advanced for 99% of the readers- more like a chemistry treatise - but the history of
    this ubiquitous drug was exciting and learned.The story of the rise of coffee houses, their political and social importance and the tale of the origins of afternoon "Tea" were both well done/ The history of soft drinks was an eye-opener as well. The book contains several illustrations and is best enjoyed with a hot cup of Costa Rican Arabica beaned coffee (not pre-ground).

    3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting
    First, a mistake by the authors: they write, "There is a case of a child who died from orally ingesting less than 5.5 grams, or the equivalent of about five cups of coffee." (p. 315)

    Now, 5.5 grams is equal to 5,500 milligrams. If the average content of a cup of coffee is taken to be about 100 mg (see Appedix A), then the child ingested not five but FIFTY-FIVE cups of coffee (or equivalent dose).

    This kind of mistake is often fatal but all too common in medical accidents, usually committed by pharmacists and doctors.

    What can I say? Neither author is medically trained - one is a lawyer and the other a writer. Their cautious endorsement of caffeine must be taken with a grain of salt (and not too much of that either).

    One complication of the matter is that people who consume much caffeine also tend to smoke a lot and have other unhealthy habits.By contrast, health-conscious people who don't smoke and do have healthful habits (like taking vitamins) drink their coffee only in moderation.The authors have not failed to point this out, but that's no defense for excessive coffee-drinking.

    Frederick the Great is mentioned as a campaigner against coffee. What they neglected to say is that Old Fritz was himself a manic drinker of coffee.(I know, because he's one of my heroes.)

    What excessive caffeine can do is most dramatically illustrated by a NASA experiment on p. 237. Exposed to four potent drugs - marijuana, benzedrine, choral hydrate, and caffeine - a spider spins a complete chaos on the last one only.

    This is an interesting book worth having on your bookshelf.Mine is already stained with black coffee - decaf. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0415927234
    Sales Rank: 18869
    Subjects:  1. Diet / Health / Fitness    2. History    3. History: American    4. Reference    5. Social History    6. Substance Abuse & Addictions - General    7. Cultural studies    8. Drug addiction & substance abuse    9. Pharmacology    10. Popular science    11. USA   


    $13.97

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