Book Review – The Flavor Bible

Laura got me this book a year ago for Christmas, and it took ’til now for me to crack it open.  Yeah it’s a little thick, but it’s more like a dictionary or thesaurus than a bible.  The Flavor Bible focuses on what makes great and memorable dishes.  It dives into various tastes and textures, and the physical and emotional sides of food.  The first 40-50 pages of the book offer many vignettes from tons of successful chefs with their thoughts on different flavor combinations, and their thinking behind the construction of some of their favorite dishes.  The rest of the book serves as an encyclopedia of ingredients and culinary genres (like greek, or Thai, etc) and lists complimentary flavors and ingredients that might pair well with each.

Overall this book is a better reference than it is entertaining.  It doesn’t provide as much instruction as I would have liked, but I feel through more study and practice it’s lessons will make more sense.  One of the chapters was on the emotional side of food and how pairing the dish to the season or holiday can make a significant impact on how the mind perceives the flavor.  This tip will take some getting use to for me because regardless of the time of year I think, “damn, I bet some ribs would be good!”  (It’s a good thing pigs can’t read because they would probably identify me as a part of the axis of evil.)  The notes from the different chefs were very interesting.  Besides their inputs on why they prepare a dish a certain way, you get to really see how much thought and practice goes into their dishes.  This is why when I go out to eat I rarely modify my order.  I like to see what the chef has come up with.  However, I do make an exception with Applebee’s because that place bee-lows.

I do have a little beef with the title of this book.  Calling it “The Flavor Bible” is a little presumptuous don’t you think?  What are you going to learn from it?  How to turn water into wine that has the right amount of acidity to pair with the boat load of fish you just caught while strolling on the water?  Seriously, it should be called “The Flavor Thesaurus” because it offers alternatives to the classic food pairings.  And there is no text in Red.  Just Sayin’

All in all, I would recommend this book to somebody who is serious about creating original dishes and ditching the recipe book.  Or to somebody who thinks their dishes need to be “saved”.  As for me, I’m kind of in the middle.  I appreciate a good recipe, but I also want a tool to help me change a recipe to make it great!  Since reading it, I have found myself going to it more often for ingredient substitutions.  So far so good.



About BaconWrappedRob

Food, Photography, Sports, Pop Culture, and other fun stuff. But mostly food!
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One Response to Book Review – The Flavor Bible

  1. Jonathan says:

    I like the book a lot. I’ve had it for a couple of years now and it’s actually been pretty fun to try out some of the non-obvious combinations. I will say that its the kind of book that is most useful when 1) you have a well-stocked pantry with the most common spices, herbs, vinegars, oils, etc. and 2) you enjoy the “let’s see what’s fresh” approach to cooking. If you ever get into shopping at a farmer’s market or one of those vegetable box delivery things where they’ll just ship you a box of veggies each week and you have limited control over what is in it, this book will come in real handy.

    You should also check out “What to Drink with What You Eat” by the same authors. It uses a similar approach with respect to the “Good, better, best” kind of pairing rankings. Most of all, it helps with pairing beers, liquors, and hot beverages to different kinds of food. I think anyone can guess the general rules of wine pairings, but I find that pairing beers with food is especially tricky.

    I am totally the Iran to your Iraq on the pork axis of evil. Though it sounds a bit blasphemous to be talking about pork and Iran in the same sentence.

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