CULINARY-ESSENTIALS-

Review From User :

In these days of high food and gas prices, I do not part with my dollars easily. Every time I pull out my wallet, it is only after much thought and some time spent foraging for cheaper alternatives, or else a realization that the coveted item is just that -a want instead of a need.

Books are high on that list on 'wants'. It took me many years to come to this conclusion, but after re-discovering the joys of my public library, I have now firmly placed owned books on my luxury list.

Here's a confession:
I paid 35 dollars for this book.

Understand: this is huge. I could just stop my review there. That, along with the grimacing pain it takes for me to give a whole fifth star attests to just how I feel about this book. Understand that 5 stars, to me, consists of books that changed my life; it is a category of books with the likes of Grapes of Wrath and Watership Down.

Yup.

Just so you know - this is not a cookbook. This is a reference book for people who know what tastes good, but have trouble articulating why. This book explains what makes a balanced taste (between acid, fat, salt, and sweetness), the importance of mouthfeel (temperature, texture, piquancy, and astringency), the role of smell, and the interplay of all these things with the visual, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of a meal.

It explains why basil tastes good with tomatoes, why corn is good with butter (is *anything* not improved by butter), why ham goes with cheese.

After the explanations, the bulk of the book is indeed a dictionary of flavor affinities. It provides an alphabetized list of hundreds of ingredients along with the other ingredients that complement them best (it sometimes also lists those ingredients that are most awful to combine). It also classifies the ingredients to the 4 tastes (sweet, salty, sour, bitter).

How did this book change my life Well, I've donated all (ok, most) of my cookbooks. Now I just look in my pantry, pick the item I want to base my meal on, and use this book to help me bring out that ingredient. I no longer trust recipes, but trust my tongue instead. I think about the flavors I am tasting and combining, and I understand the science and techniques that make me think something tastes good. I now can verbalize why coriander goes so well with fish when there's no lemon in the fridge(coriander is perceived by the sour tastebuds), and why cloves can replace allspice in pumpkin pie (they're both sweet and loud enough to be heard over the pumkin).

So, yeah. Good book to have in the kitchen. Probably will be the last 'cookbook' I get rid of.


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