by Kate Heyhoe
I've never figured out how to read a ten pound book in bed—at least not comfortably. But I've just added two such tomes (for a total of 20 pounds) to my research collection. So I'm stuck here sitting quite properly in a swivel chair, at my desk, flipping from entry to entry in the sheer joy of discovery—a pastime I relish but would prefer to do snuggled up with mounds of pillows, a cozy comforter, and a hot cuppa tea.
But the Oxford Companion to Food was clearly never meant to be a minor or portable work, and neither was its mate, the Oxford Companion to Wine. The food reference took 18 years for editor Alan Davidson to compile, plumping it up with 2,650 articles researched and penned by more than 50 food authorities. The wine volume is a recently revised edition to the original 1994 title, with editor Jancis Robinson revising nearly half the 3000 entries and adding another 500 new articles.
If, like me, you enjoy reading about food as much you do cooking or eating it, then savor a few of these tidbits (excerpted in part) from the Oxford Companion to Food:
...An armadillo is edible, indeed good to eat, provided that seven glands have first been removed from legs and back. The animal may then be cleaned and baked in its own scaly covering. In Brazil it is usual to add a lot of parsley with the seasoning....
...tripe based sausages. Andouilles were served on the best French tables in the Middle Ages, but in the centuries since then they have mutated into a more rustic sort of specialty. The use of the term andouille as a slang word meaning "imbecile" might seem to fit with this new role, but it is hard to explain and appears to be incompatible with the existence of lively associations of andouille-lovers...
...When the sunflower was introduced to Europe in the 16th century, it was treated as an ornamental plant. However, in the early 18th century Peter the Great took it to Russia, where a chance circumstance caused it to become an important food plant. The Church banned the eating of oily plants on fast days, but the sunflower, being a recent introduction, was not on the list drawn up by the clerics. The laity, who were sharper eyed, took to chewing the seeds—raw, roasted, or salted—and later to extracting the oil from them. Russia subsequently became the largest grower of sunflowers...
I'm very grateful to Mr. Davidson, in particular, for compiling such a valuable food resource, one which I can readily share with my readers— particularly when they ask such questions as this:
Do you know where the name "Cole Slaw" originated from? I would be interested to know. I haven't been able to find an answer. Thanks for your assistance. — Tiffany Fitzpatrick, San Antonio TX, tiffany.fitzpatric*usaa.com
Well, luckily I do have the answer. According to the Oxford Companion to Food, "coleslaw" derives from "koolsla," the combination of Dutch words kool meaning cabbage and sla, meaning salad. An incorrect variation of the term, cold slaw, also exists, but in America, we likely accepted the correct term (coleslaw) because our English founders also used a word "cole" to mean cabbage. — Kate Heyhoe, The Global Gourmet
Flipping through the Oxford Companions inspired me to create some new dishes that include a few of the Oxford's global ingredients: panch phoron, an Indian spice mix; miso, a bean paste from Japan; and halva, a confection from Greece. You'll discover a bit more about each ingredient by reading the headnotes at the beginning of the recipes.
If you're crazy for, and curious about, food and wine, then work out your muscles and pick up these fat and happy Oxford Companions. As the beefy blokes at Oxford might say, "Brilliant!"
From Oxford University Press (1999):
The Oxford Companion to Food
Alan Davidson, Editor; $60
Buy the Book!
The Oxford Companion to Wine, 2nd Edition
Jancis Robinson, Editor: $65
Buy the Book!
Kate's Global Kitchen for February, 2000:
2/05/00 Asian New Year: Honoring the Kitchen God
2/12/00 Valentine Theme Dinners: Setting the Mood with Food
2/19/00 Vietnamese Meals in Minutes
2/26/00 What Food Writers Read: The Oxford Companions
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