Compendiums, Glossaries, and Lies

Writer, sometime kitchen denizen, and Next Iron Chef dream-killer Michael Ruhlman’s new book, The Elements of Cooking, is modeled after Strunk and White’s classic The Elements of Style, and, judging by the praise Ruhlman’s receiving, it’s a worthy descendant. Mark Knoblauch of Booklist says, “This indispensable compendium of cooking information for both professional and amateur cooks constitutes a precise, unpretentious, unencumbered culinary handbook.”

You can judge for yourself by reading an excerpt. But Ruhlman’s is not the only glossary currently making the rounds. The Food Snob’s Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Gastronomical Knowledge, published last month, plumbs mysteries such as:

Cepe. Cloying French synonym for porcini mushroom, used on menus to confuse diners who think porcinis are old news. Truly pretentious chefs use the term boletus mushrooms for cepes/porcinis, a shorthand allusion to the fungus’s Latin name, Boletus edulis.

Food Snob’s is by David Kamp, author of The United States of Arugula: The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution.

Lastly, and most amusingly, there’s The Devil’s Food Dictionary: The Food Lover’s Culinary Guide to Gastronomy, Cooking, Cuisine and Food, by Barry Foy, which at the moment is online only. Modeled after Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary, Fox’s book is self-described as “a pioneering culinary reference work consisting entirely of lies,” and includes entries like:

curing A time-consuming process by which a food that started out raw (such as ham, cheese, or fish) is painstakingly brought to a stage at which it is uncooked.

and:

game bird Any fowl whose nutritional value has been enhanced through the implantation of tiny, mineral-rich pellets in its flesh.

And thus concludes today’s glossary of glossaries.