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Customer Review

on 8 April 2011
Niki Segnit has achieved something truly original with this book. First, she creates a flavour continuum; 99 flavours by which to organise her book. These 99 flavours she further classifies into groupings such as 'Roasted', 'Mustardy', 'Woodland', 'Bramble and Hedge' and 'Earthy'. Then, she goes through each of these groupings, flavour by flavour. Using literary, film and TV references, anecdotes, food science, cooking lore and recipes, she describes each flavours pairing with others, from the exquisite to the overrated.

Now, neither the flavours Niki chooses for her continuum nor their pairngs are comprehensive, but this book is the beginning of something quite marvelous, as well as something that could very easily be extended upon. Like Niki says, if she had dealt with flavours in combinations of threes rather than twos, this would have increased the number of entries in the thesaurus to 156,849 rather than the mere 4,851 she had to contend with. Even with its limitations, this book covers a lot of flavour ground.

One of the things I love most about this book is Niki's writing. She's an incredible conjurer of flavour imagery through her original use of analogy. Here's an example for your sensual pleasure:

"Chocolate and Cardamom: Like a puppeteer's black velvet curtain, dark chocolate is the perfect smooth background for cardamom to show off its colours. Use the cardamom in sufficient quantities and you can pick out its enigmatic citrus, eucalyptus and warm, woody-floral qualities" (p.14)

And if you need even more convincing, Niki will often include a recipe that shows off the pairing. I love how she does this in the style of Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David (the classics no less): no photos, no lists, only the bare instructions. This book is designed for cooks who love to read, not food pornographers.
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