Twenty Two Years In The Making,
This review is from: The Diner's Dictionary: Word Origins of Food and Drink (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Back in 1990 a book was published called The Glutton's Glossary. Unsurprisingly, given the title, the book never gelled with the national subconscious. Three years later the book resurfaced, this time in soft back form, as The Gourmet's Guide. Again the world didn't hold it's collective breath. The idea seemed right - a book devoted to definitions of culinary terms, potted histories of dishes and ingredients and menu/wine list terminology - but the reading public seemingly had little appetite for such a guide.
That was then. Tastes in 21st century Britain are much more advanced and people much more open to trying new flavours, new drinks, new restaurants and new cuisines. Arranged from Abernethy biscuits through to zwieback, coincidentally also a term for a rusk or biscuit, over four hundred pages John Ayto's updated version is the perfect companion to the experimental foodie. Subtitled 'word origins of food and drink' this entertaining book revisits the familiar and explores the less familiar in a gastronomic circumnavigation which leaves few stones unturned. At a time when restaurants, celebrity chefs and food experts are falling over one another to discover the next craze or newest ingredient it is going to be a very brave author who will commit himself to extolling the merits of, say, Mongolian cuisine or the dietary advantages of Batavia. However, it is also an advantage to be able to give suitable background information on established cuisines, ingredients etc that may be currently out of vogue but which may be on the verge of rediscovery - the only explanation I can offer to the inclusion of both Black Forest Gateau and the humble vol-au-vent in this book. These aside, I found Mr Ayto's book entertaining, inspiring and informative; tummelberries from the banks of a tributary of the River Tay, fish cake, as a term, originates from 1854, the deep fried Mars bar was first made, allegedly, in Stonehaven near Aberdeen and not Glasgow as I had always presumed. This is a book for dipping into, pick and mix sweet bag style, and savouring whatever gem of knowledge comes out. Having read what the pasty, that pastry enveloped pocket of meat, potato and root vegetables, means in the United States this book is also a very valuable asset when travelling abroad.