The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs
Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, Fri., Dec. 5, 2008
The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefsby Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Little, Brown & Co., 392 pp., $35
Few food books in recent memory have excited me as much as this one – perhaps because it really isn't a cookbook at all. Instead of prescribed, carefully measured recipes, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg give us an insight into the minds of "America's most imaginative chefs" to inspire the reader to create new dishes based on imaginative and harmonious flavor. In their introductory chapter, they explain the formula: Flavor = taste (what is perceived by the taste buds) + mouthfeel (what is perceived by the rest of the mouth) + aroma (what is perceived by the nose) + "the X Factor" (what is perceived by the other senses, plus the heart, mind, and spirit). Then they break the formula down further into individual components (sweet, sour, temperature, piquancy, pungency, etc.), flavor affinities, function, seasonality of ingredients, and – just as important – the essence of the moment ("Why do you need or want to cook in the first place?"), which together create the ultimate goal of "deliciousness." They follow with carefully organized charts for every ingredient, type of cuisine, and culinary term imaginable, indicating taste, flavor function, commonly used cooking techniques, tips, flavor affinities, and incompatibilities. All this invaluable information is interspersed with comments and insights from acclaimed chefs such as Monica Pope of t'afia (Houston), Maricel Presilla of Zafra (Hoboken, N.J.), Traci Des Jardins from jardinière (San Francisco), Homaro Cantu from moto (Chicago), Michael Lomonaco of Porter House (NYC), and José Andrés (cookbook author and TV personality) that help explain why and how they create their culinary masterpieces. Give this book to someone who loves to cook; chances are they'll reward you with a fabulous meal prepared with you in mind.
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