The Food Lover's Companion:
More than 6,700 A-to-Z entries describe foods, cooking techniques, herbs, spices, desserts, wines, and the ingredients for pleasurable dining
Have you ever flipped through a magazine or watched a food show where they were using rare ingredients that you've never heard of? Or maybe you have wondered where does nutmeg come from or who discovered it? If you have ever had any questions or interest in food and ingredients, then you will love this book! I love having a reference book that I can pick up whenever I have a question or want to know more about a specific ingredient and I probably refer to this book at least 4 or 5 times during the week.
Let me give you a taste, yes pun intended: (excerpt from Food Lover's Companion, pg. 418)
"nutmeg: When Columbus sailed from Spain looking for the East Indies, nutmeg was one of the spices for which he was searching. Native to the Spice Islands, this seed from the nutmeg tree (a tropical evergreen) was extremely popular throughout much of the world from the 15th to the 19th century. When the fruit of the tree is picked, it is split to reveal the nutmeg seed surrounded by a lacy membrane that, when dried and ground, becomes the spice MACE. The hard, egg-shaped nutmeg seed is grayish-brown and about 1 inch long. The flavor and aroma are delicately warm, spicy and sweet. Nutmeg is sold ground or whole. Whole nutmeg freshly ground with a NUTMEG GRATER or GRINDER is superior to that which is commercially ground and packaged. Nutmeg is excellent when used in baked goods, milk- or cream-based preparations like custards, white sauces or eggnog and on fruits and vegetables--particularly potatoes, spinach and squash. See also SPICES; Seasoning Suggestions, page 747".
Another reason I love this book, is that it contains cross-references of other terms that may have been mentioned in the definition and are CAPITALIZED for quick and easy location.
I think we are living in a fantastic time where there is so much knowledge in the culinary field and that it is available to those that want to continue to learn and enjoy so many different types of ingredients. What are the favorite culinary books on your kitchen shelf?