- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Revised edition (May 1 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 160819874X
- ISBN-13: 978-1608198740
- Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 84.5 x 21.5 cm
- Shipping Weight: 581 g
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Flavor Thesaurus: A Compendium of Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook Hardcover – Apr 24 2012
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“Erudite and inspiring, practical and fun, it will make you salivate, laugh, take issue and feel vindicated. Your synapses will fire in a whole new way as you trail your hand through your garden herbs … A deceptively simple little masterpiece.”—"Sunday Times" (UK)
“An exquisite guide to combining flavors.”—"Observer" (UK)
“An original and inspiring resource.”—Heston Blumenthal
“Intriguing, surprising and remarkably useful.”—Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
“For new cooks and old hands in the kitchen, this book is a must-have and a must-read. Not only are the flavor combinations and recipes offered useful, but Niki Segnit’s descriptions of each and every one are delightful to read. It’s a combination between a bedtime read and a kitchen
"To savor "The Flavor Thesaurus" fully it helps to think of its author, Niki Segnit, as a culinary marriage broker. An imaginative but practical matchmaker, she has a gift for pairing sometimes lackluster ingredients in a way that brings out the best in them and makes them more appealing as a couple than they ever were as loners... She shares an eloquent vocabulary with us in this delicious book."--"Wall Street Journal"
"The cure for dinner ennui...a cheekily erudite, endlessly fascinating master list of flavor pairings both familiar and surprising...the entries get you dreaming of both exotic feasts and after-work comfort foods.""--Whole Living"
"Erudite and inspiring, practical and fun, it will make you salivate, laugh, take issue and feel vindicated. Your synapses will fire in a whole new way as you trail your hand through your garden herbs ... A deceptively simple little masterpiece."--"Sunday Times" (UK)
"An exquisite guide to combining flavors."--"Observer" (UK)
About the Author
Niki Segnit's background is in marketing, specializing in food and drink, and she has worked with many famous brands of candy, snacks, baby foods, condiments, dairy products, hard liquors, and soft drinks. She lives in central London with her husband.
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I will start with an example, because I can see from the number of people who have found the non-5-star reviews helpful that there are either a lot of fans of this book (itself worth bearing in mind - mine is only one opinion) or a lot of friends of Segnit. This first example, a full entry (i.e. not a snippet of one), is one that I picked out at random:
'Pea & Oily Fish: According to New England tradition, gardeners make sure to plant their peas by Patriot's Day (19 April), in the hope that they'll be ready for the traditional Independence Day feast of poached salmon, fresh green peas and new potatoes. Strawberry shortcake is served for dessert.'
Now, this is vaguely interesting. It tells me about a culinary tradition in a part of the world I have never visited. What it doesn't tell me is why that combination might be good, how good it is, what kinds of oily fish might go better with peas, what it is about the flavour of peas that might complement, offset, balance, overpower, augment or improve the flavour of the fish, etc. The book is full of this kind of entry.
However, for the sake of balance I would also like to mention that the book does occasionally present some very interesting information on certain ingredients and flavours: their history, what separates them from similar ingredients, etc. And once in a while you will come across an entry that lives up to the book's stated aim by providing details as to how ingredients combine and complement one another (the Cabbage & Shellfish is one I found at random). The latter are just that little bit too thin on the ground for me to give the book any higher than three stars.
Too often the book strays back into the territory of the cookery book, detracting from the focus on the gap in the market Segnit said needed filled and that inspired her to write the book. Take this full entry as an example (again, at random):
'Chestnut & Pear: Hold back some of the chestnuts you bought for the stuffing at Christmas and serve them on Boxing Day in a salad of chopped pear, the best bits of dark turkey meat and some dark green leaves.'
I agree with the other reviewers who said that the book is cheaply produced, though personally I'm not overly bothered about this (...yet; I might change my mind once it starts falling to pieces in a few months time). A tiny niggle is that the name is ill-considered: a thesaurus provides synonyms, not word combinations, so a flavour thesaurus would in theory provide ingredient alternatives. Anyway, that's taking the review into the realm of pedantry. (EDIT: Have just seen that another reviewer noticed this point about the naming, though I should point out that her husband's comment regarding the etymology is irrelevant, as the meaning in modern-day English is what counts.)
So, to sum up, for me personally it's hit and miss. The scope of the book's aims as set out in the introduction are telling: Segnit has aimed to do too much. She wanted to examine flavour combinations (but had to restrict herself to 99 ingredients), present interesting information and anecdotes, keep it readable rather than purely a reference book and offer recipe ideas (i.e. not 200ml of this, 500g of that, but like the Chestnut & Pear example above). That's far too broad an aim, and to my mind she falls short on all accounts. The result is a book not suited to cover-to-cover reading and not suited to being a consistently reliable reference work (too often you'll look a pairing up and end up thinking 'that doesn't really tell me anything'). More focus would have improved the book considerably.
My view is of course coloured by what I was looking for in the book: an analysis (albeit not scientific) of flavour pairings, on the basis of which I would learn more about why certain ingredients might work together. If this is what you're looking for you might be a little disappointed. If you want a chatty, slightly meandering read for dipping into when on the toilet, in the car or (perhaps) strapped to the wings of a biplane, then this is a quite interesting book.
I was not expecting another recipe book - I have several of those collecting dust on a shelf in my kitchen. At this point, It makes sense that as a cook, one can create whatever they can imagine if they know how to get there. This book helps with the flavor aspect of creation.
This book fills the void of knowledge when a creative cook is perfecting a recipe or missing an ingredient.
I find this book more valuable than a recipe book, since I am constantly trying to improve nearly every recipe I come across.
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