Culinary Book Review: The Flavor Bible

My love for cookbooks started back at Bryanston High School (South Africa), with Cooking Is Fun ( Keating, S.M. & Fookes, B.G., Wynberg, Cape: Rustica, 1976)., a 108 page recipe book which ignited a passion and sent me on an exciting culinary adventure. I’m quite sure I read that little theflavorbiblecookbook 100 times in one semester. When I say “read,” I mean cover-to-cover.  I didn’t do so well in the sewing part of the home economics class; however, in the cooking class, I impressed the instructor and surprised myself.  My friend, a gorgeous red-headed boy who eventually captured my heart, sat outside the classroom and waited for class to finish in order to partake of my culinary creations. I clearly remember the day he bit in to that lovingly, prepared steak and kidney pie with perfect flaky pastry, closed his eyes, groaned deep in his throat, and swayed ever so slightly. That little book held a secret I needed to understand. So here I am, more than 30 years later, still reading cookbooks cover-to-cover.

While having lunch at my friend Mackenzie’s house, she handed me a copy of The Flavor Bible (Page, Karen & Dornenburg, Andrew. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2008), a gift from her oh-so-clever husband. I flipped through the pages and noticed I was holding my breath. It was as if I’d found a secret map to carry on my culinary adventures. I waited a few weeks before purchasing my own copy because I’ve discovered that delayed gratification makes me appreciate things more. Needless to say, I love this book. It’s not a cookbook, and you won’t find recipes in the ordinary sense; however, you will find thousands of flavor combinations and an exciting, culinary resource.

There are three delicious chapters:

  1. FLAVOR = Taste + Mouthfeel + Aroma + “The Factor”: Learning to recognize the language of food
  2. GREAT COOKING = Maximizing Flavor + Pleasure by tapping Body + Heart + Mind + Spirit: Communicating via the language of food

2008_09_food_DornenburgPageHeadshotBy far, my favorite chapter is Flavor Matchmaking – chapter three. The book is 380 pages and 339 of those are in chapter three. I’ve haven’t had this much fun with reference material since the first time my Dad let me use his set of Encyclopedia Britannica. I loved those big, brown books. The giant-sized map book was my favorite. Alas, I digress. The charts in chapter three are listed in alphabetical order and include both ingredients and the flavors of a particular country or region. Below each ingredient, the authors “distilled and summarized key aspects of an ingredient’s essence” by: season, taste, weight, volume, and primary function. They also recommend cooking techniques and some useful tips.

Thank you, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, for a thorough and generous treasure chest. I really, really love this book and I’d like every cook to own one. However, I’m pretty sure many folks won’t recognize its beauty. Buy one for yourself and for that person in your life who appreciates flavor. You won’t regret it. And, thank you, Mackenzie. I owe you one.


2 Responses to “Culinary Book Review: The Flavor Bible”

  1. Vicki Ann Barr on September 12th, 2013

    Hi Karen,
    I googled “Cooking is Fun” and found your website/blog. I recently went through a divorce and moved back to Cape Town. I had to leave most of my personal belongings in the states which included my favourite cookbook written by my favourite home economics teacher, Mrs. Keating. Do you know where I can find another copy?
    Thanks in advance

  2. lucyzoe on September 12th, 2013

    I was unable to find the book still in print. You may be able to find a more recent version. Mine is old…like me.
    If there are any recipes you want from the book, I’d be happy to scan a few and email them to you.
    Let me know,
    Lucy Zoe

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