Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reference Sources

I thought I would spend a few blog posts writing about some of the reference books I own and use when I'm writing. One of them is The Oxford Companion to Food, published by Oxford University Press.

This is a heavy tome, compiled by Alan Davidson and published in 1999. I own an ex-library copy, in excellent shape, with dust jacket. I believe I bought it off eBay. There are newer editions, but mine is 1999.

In some of the books I read, and in some of the things I write, I come across or want to include food or dishes that fit the time period I'm reading or writing about, but that are fairly foreign to the modern cook. And that is where this book comes in handy.

For example, recently a heroine in India during the Napoleonic Wars was eating aubergine out of a tin. To make sure I knew what aubergine was I looked it up in my handy dandy book, and sure enough, there it was. Aubergine is simply an eggplant, and it originated in India. There are two whole columns devoted to the aubergine, discussing the origin of its two names, and how it came to be used widely in Europe, where it was at first considered deadly and was only used as an ornamental plant. Very interesting.

Sometimes I just pick up this book and begin reading. There are some unusual items in there that have been, if they are no longer, considered food. One example is Aardvark. I'll save that for another post.

A while back I did a post on the poke plant, and I found a wonderful entry in this book on that plant.

I'll discuss this book more in the future, and also some of my other reference sources.

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