The Art of Flavor: Practices and Principles for Creating Delicious Food

Following on their 2004 collaboration, Aroma, chef and food writer Daniel Patterson and perfumer Mandy Aftel (Fragrant) have created a guide to creative cooking in The Art of Flavor.

"Good cooks, like good perfumers, learn to orchestrate ingredients into delicious combinations without thinking about it, let alone talking about it." Patterson and Aftel offer rules for building flavors with the particular ingredients you have, to please your personal tastes and desires. They also offer both amateurs and professional cooks ways to develop a personal vocabulary for discussing this process with others, whether in a home kitchen or a classroom. Although the authors provide more than 80 recipes to demonstrate their ideas, this is not a cookbook so much as it is an instruction manual, "designed to make you into someone who confidently adapts recipes to your needs and desires--ultimately into someone who does not even need a recipe."

The first chapter is a historical overview of flavor, the relationships among medicine, perfumery and cooking and the development of the flavor industry in the 19th and 20th centuries. The authors explain how to select and understand ingredients, to be aware of how no two carrots or apples or vanilla beans are the same. A chapter on the "four directions of flavor" explains how to use spices, herbs, citruses and flowers. This is a technical book in many ways, complete with a bibliography for further reading, but it is also a friendly and accessible one for anyone with a serious interest in the art of cooking. Cooks at every level of experience are likely to find fresh clarity and new insights here. --Sara Catterall

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