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The Oxford Companion to Food

4.46  ·  Rating Details ·  266 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Twenty years in the making, the first edition of Alan Davidson's magnum opus appeared in 1999 to worldwide acclaim. Its combination of serious food history, culinary expertise, and entertaining serendipity was recognized as utterly unique. Including both an exhaustive catalogue of the foods that nourish humankind-fruit from tropical forests, mosses scraped from adamantine ...more
Hardcover, 907 pages
Published October 1st 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published October 14th 1999)
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Nov 07, 2010 Zarb rated it it was amazing
God I love this book. If your'e a food nerd you can simply open it to some random page and you will loose hours. Pound for pound there simply isn't any one book on the subject to match it, though it's certainly not a place to find a recipe. You need to be the kind of person who can happily read pages about the Cashew, or the prevalence of fermented milk drinks in Central Asia, to love or want this book, but if you do, its time to start saving.
Aug 12, 2008 Michelle rated it it was amazing
the editorial review above has the whole concept covered quite accurately. this is the encyclopedia of food: individual ingredients, techniques on cooking them, what different cultures have done with them. i've spent the past couple of evenings with this one on my kitchen table, looking up what i was making for dinner that night, and being both intrigued by the depth of knowledge one could have on pita (for example) and amused at the way that knowledge is presented. i don't know that anyone woul ...more
Mar 28, 2011 Joel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Did it change my life? Perhaps, I was given this the year it came out from my parents, it was seminal in helping me journey through the world and business of food for the last decade.

Typical entry gives an exhaustive background on thousands of subjects and objects within the realm of cooking, eating and food. No recipes here - (where would they put them?) A certain element of humor rides beneath this compendium of culinary clarity.

Dec 28, 2015 Gavin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although a few items are missing from this book, either due to spelling or different varieties of the same dishes throughout the world, this book is great for finding out about items that you know little about. In an age of Google it is still nice to have a hard copy of something that describes sixteen different date varieties from Asharasi to Zahidi.

Not often you find a book that comments on General Dwight D. Eisenhower offering cooking suggestions on adding nasturtium to vegetable soups.

I won'
Oct 03, 2014 Kateevelyne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Obviously I haven't read this book from cover to cover (yet!!!), but wanted to wait a while (from receiving it as a Good reads giveaway) before reviewing it until I'd had some genuine opportunities to seek info from it. This orange beast sits on my cookbook shelf next to the kitchen table and whenever we have a query about the origin of a food, how it could be used, or indeed what the food actually is we can flick through and find the item easily. Items are listed alphabetically just like an enc ...more
Nov 23, 2012 Edna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food-cooking

Too many expensive "reference" books and food "encyclopedias" are no more than glorified recipe books, or pretty-picture coffee table fodder. Recipes you can pick up in just about any cook book, or free on the internet. What is harder to find is a book like this.

It doesn't waste valuable page space sneaking in recipes you probably already have in double or triplicate from other food books. Instead, it concentrates on delivering a mine of information about almost every kind of major foodstuff, cu
Julie Davis
Sep 27, 2013 Julie Davis rated it it was amazing
I've had this book for some time and have had a lot of fun randomly dipping into it now and than. Being the sort of family that we are, we have also spent a lot of time looking up answers to food-related questions in it.

In search of breakfast reading (and possibly inspired by the fellow who read the OED in a year), I recently began flipping through the alphabet. Reading whatever caught my eye on the next letter's page has been amusing, educational and surprisingly literary given the sometimes wi
Aug 22, 2014 Emma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastically presented and edited encyclopaedia of food. Full of both useful information and amusing asides, this is a book any food connoisseur would love.

Until I read this, I had no idea how much I didn't know about a subject that is essential to our lives. I know I'll be dipping into this for years to come.
Nov 18, 2015 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gloriously in depth encyclopedia of all things food. Would check it out again to re read just to soak in more details.
Ingrid Hardy
Apr 09, 2014 Ingrid Hardy rated it it was amazing
A great reference book to have, when you are looking up some relatively obscure plant or ingredient.
Nov 29, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are so many cookbooks out there but this is diffident, is authoratitive and is worth the money.
Apr 09, 2012 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
Written by renowned culinary writer Alan Davidson, "The Penguin Companion to Food" is "an essential resource for anyone with a serious interest in the central place of food in human life." In addition to the encyclopedia entries, it also includes essays on food history, food and culture, and food science. It's a wonderful resource, but it's similar to "The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion," and I prefer that guide for some reason. Despite my own bias, I can't knock this one - there's a wealth of go ...more
Rachel Page
As I got this through a giveaway, I wanted to read it cover to cover to make sure I could give it an accurate review, but it is more a reference guide than something you sit and read.

For the past few days, I have been picking it up whenever I have something to eat and looking up whatever it is. All of the entries are thorough and very detailed. It is a real encyclopaedia of food.

If you are looking for reference book to tell you about cooking and food, I don't see how you could do any better than
Dec 28, 2014 Nicola added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nicola by: Goodreads giveaway, first-reads
I received this book via a Goodreads giveaway. Physically it's a beast of a book, as befits an encyclopaedia and this gives it a pleasingly authoritative presence.

I didn't read this book cover to cover but have dipped into it when coming across a less familiar food item, wishing for a more detailed background on others or simply for random interest.

A great resource and source of pleasure for gastronomes with large bookshelves.
Dec 24, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it
A good, but by no means complete or all encompassing compendium to gastronomy. Larousse Gastronomique & interestingly, the Food Lovers Companion make up the trifecta of food reference.
Austen to Zafón
Apr 02, 2010 Austen to Zafón marked it as to-read
Why: This sounds vaguely like McGee's "On Food and Cooking," which I found fascinating. And it's got lots of history of where recipes came from. Hoping the library has it.
Feb 26, 2008 Bird rated it really liked it
Enyclopedic, covers all food everywhere, even things like medieval cookery. Necessarily limited definition of the same, but still takes up 4 pages. Love it. No index.
Feb 22, 2011 RUSA CODES rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dartmouth-medal
This was an Honorable Mention for the Dartmouth Medal for 2000. For the complete list, go to
Oct 18, 2008 Brooklyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ever wonder where fat-tailed sheep live? Or the history of dumplings? If so, this is the book for you. It's an indispensable kitchen reference.
Aug 28, 2009 Anastasia rated it it was amazing
This book was a birthday present to me. I love reading about everything from aioli to different kinds of organ meats.
Mar 08, 2011 Genevieve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bought this $30 book at Half Price Books for $7! What a gem to have in my library!
Deborah J.
Jun 09, 2012 Deborah J. rated it it was amazing
W A I T I N G to get this as a birthday present!
(But no pressure...)
Mary Louise
Jan 02, 2009 Mary Louise rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food
Porn for Foodies. What else can I say...
May 10, 2010 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The encyclopedia of food. I love it.
Shelby Eagleburger
Shelby Eagleburger rated it it was amazing
Sep 23, 2016
June Reisinger
June Reisinger rated it it was amazing
Sep 18, 2016
Carley marked it as to-read
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Sep 11, 2016
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