Monday, 25 May 2009

The Flavor Bible

It seems appropriate to review the book that prompted me to start the blog: 'The Flavor Bible' by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.

This is not a traditional cookery book. It is something even better. Page and Dornenburg spent eight years speaking to the top chefs in the US. They were trying to work out which ingredients produced the best flavors when used together. In short, they were looking for deliciousness.

What they have published are the results of almost a decade of research. Take a food, almost any food, and the book will describe the taste and then list a long line of ingredients that bring out or compliment the flavor.

I think the book is for amateur and professional cooks who want to create their own dishes or improve their culinary intuition. While it does provide information on how to cook a particular food it does not contain recipes.

Look out for this title. I think it is going to join 'The Silver Spoon' and 'Culinary Artistry' as a classic cook book.

You can hear me talking about this book on World Radio Switzerland (WRS) here. If you are thinking of buying it then consider your local, independent bookstore.

Obligatory First Post

Owning a bookstore gives you a different perspective on books. When the postman brings you about 500 new books a week you start to think of them more like book-shaped objects. You weigh them, price them, index them, use them to cosh your colleagues with. Then you go home and think, 'I've got nothing to read!'. I am not joking. I forget to take them home and am stuck with the books I have read a hundred times before.

Then the other day I recommended a book and sparked a trans-Atlantic conversation email exchange between half-a-dozen people I hardly knew. It reminded me of the power of books. Characters from fiction that rely on you, the reader, to imagine them into life. These facets of your imagination who can amuse you, bore or annoy you, disappoint and uplift. Or non-fiction titles that lead you down new roads and can introduce you to parts of yourself you had not considered before.

Books, beautiful books. A lifetime of reading. And let us not forget sharing. Recommending books is a privilege. This is not a decision between the red dress and the green one. This is the choice between Paul Auster and Jane Austin. Coe and Coehlo. While the answer for books and clothes happens to be the same - 'Why not take both?' - the question is the most crucial part of the equation. 'What shall I read?'. I hope this blog might offer you some assistance.

But, be warned.

I am a picky reader. If on the first page - or in some cases the first line - the author uses a cliché then I drop the book. I don't care if it is a New York Times bestseller or if it 'changed your life'. I want writers to be craftspeople and storytellers. They must have something to say and be able to say it well. The same is true for non-fiction. Either the idea you have is book-length or it shouldn't be published in that format. Repetition doesn't make an idea better or more compelling.

Along the way I hope to give some insights of what it is like to own a bookstore. I imagine some of my more exuberant customers will force their way onto these pages. For myself, I want to fall in love with literature again. Repeat after me, 'I am a book, I am not an ISBN number'.