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The Oxford Companion to Food [Hardcover]

Alan Davidson
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 Oct 1999 Oxford Companion to Food
Twenty years in the making, here at last is the long-awaited magnum opus from one of the world's greatest authorities on the history and use of food and foodstuffs the world over. Food historian and author Alan Davidson has personally written an amazing 80 per cent of this unique work with additional articles by over 50 specialist authors from as far afield as the Philippines, Norway, and Australia. 2650 BRILLIANTLY READABLE A-Z ENTRIES over 40 feature articles highlighting staple foods of the world exquisite delicately drawn illustrations by laotian artist soun vannithone navigation chart to the companion theme- by-theme extensive bibliography the most wide-ranging coverage ever of foods and food products and how to use them from exotic vegetables and spices to edible fungi and fish of all kinds, from common-or-garden carrots to specialities, such as caterpillars, not for the squeamish famous cooked and prepared dishes and drinks from around the world with their main ingredients and method of preparation from cider, crocque-monsieur, and couscous to Sussex pond pudding, sherbet, and sonofabitch stew all the flavours, styles, and staples of national and regional cuisines, past and present, ranging from classical Greek and Roman, Inca, and Moghul cuisine to Parsi food and Jewish cookery, Cambodia, and Celtic feasting culinary terms, cooking techniques, and food science to enlighten amateur cook and professional alike from colour and curdling, to sushi and soffritto; from ice and irradiation, to listeria, and lactose intolerance the history of cookery books and food writers across 2000 years, including major surveys of English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and American cookery books the place of food in culture and religion, through fasting and feasting, dietary laws and mythology, fast food and soul food, wedding meals and washing up

Product details

  • Hardcover: 908 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; First Edition edition (14 Oct 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192115790
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192115799
  • Product Dimensions: 28.6 x 22.7 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 467,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon 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) contributes approximately 80% 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 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' 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


"The 'O.C.F' is so entertainingly written that it's easy to forget it's a work of true scholarship. Published in 1999, it was received with great enthusiasm in and out of the food world and found its way onto thousands of bookshelves."--The New York Times Magazine"From the day it was published--no, from the day the bound proofs arrived--it became the one basic reference work of food scholarship, the volume to which we will all turn first whenever we have a question about food--historical, cultural, or botanical.... It is undoubtedly the most important encyclopedic volume about food published in our lifetimes."--Vogue"A food book for all time.... The canon of great food literature just got one fat volume greater.... A must-have for any serious food follower."--Gourmet"The publishing event of the year, if not the decade.... Alan Davidson, the legendarily learned (and eccentric) former British diplomat and international authority on seafood...and godfather to food scholars around the world, has written most of the 2,650 entries, in itself a stupendous feat.... Everyone seriously interested in food must own this book.... A great achievement."--Corby Kummer, The New York Times Book Review"It is hard to imagine a more congenial companion than Davidson.... This massive volume is nothing short of the grandest of SMORGASBORDS, a sumptuous BUFFET with more SAVORIES, ZAKUSKI and SWEETIES than your typical state dinner. Davidson spent 23 years working on this book, and one can see why: many of the 2,650 entries are worth a separate volume of their own, if not dozens.... A road map to food with a truly global reach... For serious food historians, this will no doubt become an irreplaceable companion. For those amateurs who are merely fascinated by food and who appreciate lucid and witty writing that seeks to deflate the pretensions of your average gastronome, it will provide hours of amusement."--Time Magazine"A masterly work with a variety

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First Sentence
AARDVARK Orycteropus afer, an animal of southern Africa which is truly 'one of a kind': it has no relations, although it can be counted as a member of the category of ANTEATERS. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
This is a great book for both reference, and just to browse through when the mood takes. The content is clear and concise, and as an amateur food writer, it has never failed to yield the information I needed when researching a subject. The entries are by no means exhaustive but gives enough to certainly use as a basis for further research, or indeed just settle an argument with a friend!
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very much worth reading for any lover of food 28 Dec 1999
By A Customer
If you are like me - you like food -, then you will enjoy this book a lot. It might be of practical value to your daily life now and then, but I think that this is not its strong point. It is an excellent volume to browse at random, or to look up a fact about a particular foodstuff that you always wanted to know. It is very pleasant book to read in any respect. The lay-out is beautiful, something that has become rare these days. The authors (it's not just Alan Davidson alone) write in a very accessible way, so that I can recommend this work to non-native speakers of English (like myself) as well.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
I love - and am in awe - of polymaths. How I would love to have met the late, great, Alan Davidson, perhaps over a dinner of his choosing or in a ship's wardroom bar; he even looks fun in the photograph of him! A double first in classics at Oxford, a wartime Royal Navy officer, a career British diplomat and one time HM Ambassador to Laos, food expert, food writer and cook, and author of this wonderful book, some twenty years in the writing. What a man - what a book! What a legacy to the world to leave such a feast of a book as this!

Everyone who likes food should have a copy in the kitchen at home; refer to it when you want to know more, of course, but pick it up and find a titbit regarding the meal that you are preparing and cooking - there's always a spare moment or two! Your guests will enjoy the morsel you give them, I am sure. But, when on your own, occasionally let this book be your dining companion; I can guarantee that it will be more of a friend, over the years, than some of the people you have broken the fast with!

Take this book as a gift to your favourite cook and give a copy to your children. Every kitchen and galley should have a copy, as should every maître-chef, sous-chef and bon oeuf, every catering office and catering college classroom. It's an ideal prize, too, for first class chefs.

This second edition is even better than the first. It's still heavy, but it's still light reading, for it is so well-written; like the author surely enjoyed his food, you get the sense that he enjoyed researching and writing this magnum opus. I certainly enjoy digesting it. There are some 72 new entries in this edition; I just hope that not one of the entries in the first edition has been removed so as to find room in this second course.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent (times 20) -- by Emma Cookson 20 Nov 1999
Alan Davidson is my grandfather and has been writing this book for twenty years, way before I was even born. I'm thirteen, so he started writing it when I was minus seven years old. I have read lots of his entries on an enormous range of different topics - from Aardvark to Zucchini. I can assure you that my grandfather really knows an awful lot about foods from all over the world and throughout human history. He writes in a really amusing and interesting way. I recommend this book to you, not only as a reference work, but as a source of endless amusement and surprise. It may interest you to know that whenever I am in a restaurant with him and my grandmother, he always seems to order the best dishes (putting his knowledge to good use, I see).
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is a remarkable book, highly readable, endlessly fascinating and an essential addition to every foodie's library. It is not only the sort of book that is a delight to browse through while eating solitary breakfasts, but a book that comes out over dinner when food is part of a serious discussion. There are minor errors to be found in descriptions of more obscure regional dishes; for example the Northeast Brazilian dish 'Vatapa' which is a thick nut based sauce is confused with 'Mocequa' , a seafood casserole which it usually accompanies. However this is minor carping for a book containing such a depth and breadth of food knowledge.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb 17 Nov 1999
The book is a treasure for food-lovers, it is a celebration
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 11 Jan 2014
I have had the penguin edition since it was first published. Hardly a week goes by without it coming off the shelf. Absolutely fascinating and full of real interest. I have just bought his three books on fish and am already hooked. The tv programme on him is well worth watching
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5.0 out of 5 stars Food bible 4 Jan 2014
By michele
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An ex-ambassador's view of what foods are eaten around the world and where they have come from. Fascinating. Excellent presents.for Christmas or any other time too.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not really what I wanted
This is really a food text book and I am sure it tells you everything you need to know but its not really what I had in mind as a present for my husband. Read more
Published 3 months ago by elsie jay
5.0 out of 5 stars everything you need to know about food
A great book for anyone that cares about what they eat. So much useful information. You will find something you didn't know in almost every paragraph.
Published 5 months ago by Michael G Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars An original perspective on food
I bought this book after I got to know the wonderful book Mediterranean Seafood by the same author, Alan Davidson. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Freyr ̃órarinsson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, excellent seller
I've been wanting this book for some time now, but didn't wish to pay the normal retail price for it. Read more
Published on 8 Aug 2011 by kermit
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in food, whether to cook or to appreciate when cooked for. Read more
Published on 22 Jan 2011 by Diana Benson
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing food encyclopedia!
Absolutely amazing book, one of those that lasts a lifetime! An abundance of information, whether you are an amateur or a professional chef, simply-a gem! Must have!
Published on 6 Dec 2010 by Nikola Milasevic
5.0 out of 5 stars Own this tome
There are so many reasons to have a copy of this on your shelf, but do be sure the shelf is big and strong because it's enormous! Read more
Published on 2 Nov 2010 by Aunty Atalanta
5.0 out of 5 stars The Oxford Companion to Food
What a wonderful book - well worth the money. A bible for cooks of any standard. So informative. Something to treasure and pore over.
Published on 2 Aug 2010 by Mrs. L. A. Coppock
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Heard about this book from watching a tv programme so had not seen the book before I purchased it. Would recommend it to any one who is interested in food or even if you are not... Read more
Published on 29 July 2010 by Gailious
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest authority on food in English.
Stunningly comprehensive, the text is clearly written and elegantly crafted. A joy to own, it has the capacity to absorb the reader for hours at a time! Read more
Published on 21 April 2010 by Graham Taylor
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