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Food Encyclopedias

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#1 Carrot Top

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Posted 19 December 2005 - 03:53 PM

An early Christmas gift arrived today and I opened it, being not of the sort who waits. :smile:

In the box were several wonderful volumes.

The Cambridge World History of Food; and The Oxford Companion to Food.

From my bookshelves I've pulled out Waverly Root's "Food" and Larousse Gastronomique.


I've dabbled in all of these books - Larousse and Root are falling apart at the seams. Larousse I actually read in its entirety many years ago.

............................................................

Tell me, what do you think each of these volumes has to offer in their own individual way? Do they each have a "personality"?

Is each of them worth reading entry-by-entry or not?

Any exceptional things you have found or do you have any curious personal notes on any of these books?

Would love to hear your comments before deciding if I have to read them all entry-by-entry. :biggrin: For that is fun in ways, but tiring, too.:sad: (Must I put this on my "to-do" list? :unsure: ) All advice welcomed.

Karen

Edited by Carrot Top, 19 December 2005 - 03:54 PM.


#2 jbonne

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 08:18 AM

to me, Larousse is still hard to beat for mainline European cuisine. i don't think i'd ever read it cover to cover, though it would be tempting if i were stuck on a desert island. but it's a constant reference -- the old one, btw, not the new one.

Oxford is similarly helpful, in an exhaustive way -- though it's very much representative of its British publisher's sensibilities and often excludes some more exotic items, and many essential bits of Americana. (for that, i rely on Mariani's Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink -- love him, hate him, be contractually obligated to provide him with free goodies, it's still a really useful reference book.) between that and Larousse, you should be neck-deep in food geekery.

speaking of desert islands, Ruth Reichl once said (on "Splendid Table," i think) that if she were stranded on one with a single book to read, it would be the Oxford food companion. my own would probably be the Oxford wine companion -- mostly because Jancis did such a brilliant and comprehensive job of editing it. THAT is a book i'd read cover to cover.

#3 Carrot Top

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 09:17 AM

:biggrin: Even though not on a desert island anymore (I was, in a sense all those years ago while reading Larousse as I lived on a boat with the only responsibilities being to make sure it didn't sink :wink: ) it is true that reading food-geekery is still a vibrant attraction of mine -so I make my own island.

What this means is that the bed gets covered with books thrown in piles, some coffee nearby (obviously it would not do to live on a desert island that had no coffee) and a cat, and I am stuck desert-island like with my own company and the wonderful piles of books.

Oxford does seem the best bet for this as I look more closely at the books here.

Waverly Root's "Food" is good, but it may be that some "facts" have been updated
in the Oxford book. His style is loveable, though. It might be worthwhile to do some side-by-side comparisons of entries to see if any discernible differences are to be found.

The Cambridge set is very serious. There is more of a focus on "health" in these volumes, lots of science with "tables" of this and that, so that might require browsing rather than reading or I may fall asleep too often. :rolleyes:

Mariani I haven't read yet - will have to add that to the list. I have heard many good things about it. Thanks for the reminder.

P.S. Yes, the old Larousse is the right Larousse. :smile:

Karen

#4 andiesenji

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 09:24 AM

I have the Larousse from the early '60s and a reprint of the first English edition that was also done in the 60s.

I have the Oxford book of food and drink in America from serveral years ago.

also the Encyclopedia of Food and Culture by J. Katz, (3 volume set) couple of years old.

The Encyclopedia of Food by Artemus Ward, published in the 20s. Huge book! Needs a book stand for reading - Think of the old library dictionary and plus. Not something to carry around, but interesting.

The New York Times Food Encyclopedia by Craig Claiborne 1985 on a shelf next to my desk.

The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery by William Wise - about 30 years old, very interesting reading.
It includes thousands of recipes for just about everything you can imagine. (1978)
I also have the 1949 edition and the reason I bought the newer one was that I enjoyed the first one so much. He explains everything well - if there is a term in a recipe one does not understand, it can be looked up in this book, so it is great for novice cooks.

The 12-volume set of Mary McBride's Encyclopedia of Cooking - I received it as a wedding gift in 1959.

McGee's On Food and Cooking, first edition and the new one, also his Curious Cook.

I haven't read all of them the all the way through but I do refer to them at one time or another when I am looking for ideas and/or unusual ingredients or recipes or just ideas.

I often begin looking for something and then get interested and spend some time reading through something totally unrelated, just because it is interesting and well written.

The Artemus Ward book is interesting, if you can find a reasonably-priced copy because it reflects the way things were in the first couple of decades of the 20th century and also has a lot of references to the late 19th. I have read a lot of it because it is interesting to me.

Edited by andiesenji, 20 December 2005 - 09:27 AM.

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#5 Lyle

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 09:34 AM

Would members care to contrast the new and old Larousse? I own the newer edition and would love to know what I'm missing or getting that I simply don't need.
Rice pie is nice.

#6 Carrot Top

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 11:21 AM

Hopefully someone who has both at hand will chime in with a better response than I can give, Lyle - for I gave the newer version away some time ago.

I just remember a sense of importance seemed to be lost in the newer version - to me it was this more than anything else. The descriptions seemed shorter and blunter, and it seemed as if some ephermera was lost. It would seem strange that an "encyclopedia" would get smaller rather than larger over time, but this was my feeling.

.................................

I just opened the door to find another package. This time it is the two-volume set of The Oxford Enclyclopedia of Food and Drink in America.

Suddenly I am tired. :laugh:

Though pleased.

I wonder how this one stacks up against Mariani's.

#7 jbonne

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Posted 20 December 2005 - 12:55 PM

Would members care to contrast the new and old Larousse?  I own the newer edition and would love to know what I'm missing or getting that I simply don't need.

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the older is unrepentantly French and a bit arcane. (anyone been cooking woodcocks lately, raise your hands.) its recipes really are more explanations of technique that you'd get from an impatient chef than anything else. it is very much a slice of French culinary knowledge from the first half of the 20th century. but in being that, its unity of purpose is truly impressive -- arcane, yes, and sometimes baroque, but not really fussy. the newer one is far more all-embracing in its approach, closer to a real encyclopedia than the sometimes quixotic work that the original is. but as with the updated "Joy," it lost some charm along the way.

(my recent appreciation of both books found here.)

incidentally, a quick echo of appreciation for Claiborne's encyclopedia. not close to comprehensive, and not even terribly useful ... but it's endlessly entertaining, really a recap of Claiborne's personal thoughts about all sorts of foods, and his passing along of lots of quirky anecdotes. that IS a book i'd read cover to cover.

dunno how Mariani stacks up against the Oxonian take on Americana, since i've never really read through the latter. Oxford's almost certainly more comprehensive (1,584 pages), so maybe they're compensating for the original Companion.

#8 rgruby

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Posted 21 December 2005 - 09:31 AM

Would members care to contrast the new and old Larousse?  I own the newer edition and would love to know what I'm missing or getting that I simply don't need.

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I think I started a thread on this very topic, probably within the last year or so. A search should turn it up.

Yup, here it is: http://forums.egulle...871&hl=larousse

Cheers,
Geoff Ruby

Edited to add link

Edited by rgruby, 21 December 2005 - 12:16 PM.


#9 John Whiting

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 08:30 AM

I just opened the door to find another package. This time it is the two-volume set of The Oxford Enclyclopedia of Food and Drink in America.

This brand new encyclopedia is edited by Andy Smith and it's superb. You won't find a more conscientious or less opinionated food historian.

A friend who is a brilliant multilingual translator of food texts tells me that the English translation of the newest Larousse is full of careless and ignorant errors.

Waverley Root's Food: Go to Mariani, p. 352 and you'll find:

...whose beautifully written and lavishly illustrated Food is an example to all food writers for style, wit, personality, and breathtaking scholarship. Sadly and ironically, Root's greatest work was cut by two-thirds [!] for publication, and its glaring omissions make the reader wonder what fascinating information he or she is missing by having only such an abridgement of what was clearly Root's masterwork.

I've been trying for years to find someone who knows where the original uncut manuscript might be, if it still exists.
John Whiting, London
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#10 srhcb

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Posted 24 December 2005 - 08:50 AM

My Larouse is the 1st American Edition, (1961), which my sister found at a used book sale for $1! I "borrowed" it several years ago. :wink:

I treat it like an ancient relgious text rather than a practical work. I mean, the intro was written by Escoffier, who unfortunately died before the first edition was published in 1938.

It's the kind of book that just wouldn't be the same on dvd.

SB (who did buy himself The Complete New Yorker on dvd for Xmas though)

#11 Carrot Top

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Posted 26 December 2005 - 02:15 PM

[quote name='John Whiting' date='Dec 24 2005, 10:30 AM']
Root's greatest work was cut by two-thirds [!] for publication, and its glaring omissions make the reader wonder what fascinating information he or she is missing by having only such an abridgement of what was clearly Root's masterwork.[/quote]I've been trying for years to find someone who knows where the original uncut manuscript might be, if it still exists.

View Post

[/quote]

Astonishing. The original must be truly amazing in scope.
That would not only be wonderful to find, but in today's environment of high interest in food, it might become a best-seller too.
(Where's the smilie that shows grinning lucre? :wink: )





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