Here in 450 pages is a descriptive compendium of just about everything we eat and how we cook it or otherwise transform it from a lower state of edibility to a higher. Hundreds, if not thousands, of ingredients are described, with English and foreign synonyms and scientific names; recipes are given in many cases to illustrate the use of the foodstuff in question.
Cooking processes are explained in great and illuminating detail. The aim is both to entertain and to instruct--in particular, to give a sense of the essence and individuality of each ingredient. Tom Stobart has travelled widely, both as an explorer and a film maker, and his book is everywhere informed by an eye for telling details and an ability to evoke the background and context of the ingredients he describes.
One of the reasons why the book came to be written, he points out in his Introduction, is his love of open-air markets around the world. Several judges said they.. 'would be lost without this book, which segues effortlessly between exhaustive reference work and handy recipe book, and back again. It explains the world of the kitchen, whether you're a beginner or an old hand, revealing the facts behind foods, equipment and techniques. Stobart describes how baking powder works, for instance, the temperature at which bacteria grow, and how to make your own tomato ketchup, so every time you dip into this book, you'll be better equipped to return to the stove.'