The Visual Food Lover's Guide is a terrific resource that I can't stop leafing through. In fact, it has taken up residence next to my bed along with a few other treasured tomes. It has the basic information on how to buy, prepare, cook, serve and store over 1,000 types of food. It also gives you the rundown on nutritional information. It's nowhere near as personal or opinionated as Jane Grigon's Vegetable Book, but with hundreds of entries it is much more comprehensive.
I really like that there's a color illustration of each item and some photos for techniques like how to make bread or pry open oyster shells. The entry for anise has an illustration of the flowering plant, star anise seeds and pods. That level of detail is what makes it so worthwhile. They've also done a great job making sure that produce and seafood from different geographic locations are included. My only complaint is that the mushroom section is a bit thin. I would have loved to have seen mushrooms such as hedgehog, lobster and lion's mane included.
The book is in a very convenient small paperback format. I do wish there was an iPhone app so I could it take it with me everywhere! There are still plenty of ingredients that I have yet to explore, and this reference book is a great way to familiarize myself with them before I buy or cook. In fact, I think I could use a copy in my car for my excursions to ethnic markets.
Another must have book for the curious and creative cook is The Flavor Bible. A big congratulations to Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg on the one year anniversary of this landmark book. It has thousands of combinations of ingredients that are tried and true. It actually pairs well with the Visual Food Lover's Guide. It has gotten me out of a rut many times and opened my eyes to some new ways of thinking about ingredients. Like The Visual Food Lover's Guide, it belongs on the shelf of anyone looking to learn more about ingredients and create their own recipes.
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