The Flavour Thesaurus: Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook by Niki Segnit

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Terri Brandmueller

We are getting so excited and inspired (and hungry) watching your submissions roll in for our upcoming Food issue! In the spirit of the food theme, we put together this collection of Roomies’ favourite cookbooks for writers. These books all feature recipes, but also include fiction, memoir, and other literary elements.

The first time I ate the brilliant combination of creamy Gorgonzola smeared on a silkily ripe pear, I was happily unaware that the fruity, spicy notes of the cheese were attributable to the ketone 2-heptanone, or that the sharp, metallic notes were from 2-nonanone, and that both were the perfect foil to the pear’s light acidity.  Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus delivers the science about why some combinations work and why some don’t, but dishes it up with a generous serving of culinary poetry that makes this book an essential reference book for both writers and cooks.

Consider Segnit’s take on chocolate and almonds.  The complex processing of chocolate can produce a variety of nutty, earthy, woody, flowery, and spicy notes that harmonize with the “toffee-popcorn” flavour of roasted almonds. But to Segnit the combination is also the taste of parental guilt—because chocolate and almonds are the ingredients in “the Toblerone your dad grabbed in the airport instead of a pair of maracas” on the way home from a too-long business trip.

Segnit classifies ninety-nine flavours into sixteen broader categories (based on a standard wine aroma wheel) and provides an erudite and witty narrative that explores the science, history, and cultural anthropology behind her choices. Scattered throughout are anecdotes, recipes, and a sometimes-quirky subjectivity that will educate and test your palate. Even if you can’t embrace all Segnit’s choices—I’m still not convinced by lemon and chocolate—she’ll awaken your taste buds to a rich world of possibilities.

Terri Brandmueller was the editor of our most recent issue, 39.2 Between Shadows. 

There is still time to submit to our Food-themed issue 40.1

“It's Canadian, feminist, and one of my favourite things ever.”

—bucketofrhymes, "29 Amazing Literary Magazines You Need To Be Reading", Buzzfeed Books

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