Exactly how are you supposed to unlock the mystery of the mango or develop ability to acquire the perfect artichoke without being able to identify one in the market? How do you select first thatturnip, or roast an oyster? Adapted from Dictionnaire Encyclopedique Des Aliments by Solange Monette (Quebec/Amerique, 1989), the Visual Food Encyclopedia and its younger cousin, The Visual Food Lover’s Guide offer detailed illustrations and guidance on how to select, store and prepare most common and uncommon fruits and vegetables along with assorted seafood, fowl, meats and cheese, plus some general nutritional information. Although not a cookbook, it does include a smattering of standard recipes from fresh pasta to boiling a whole lobster.
Unsurprisingly, the hardcover Encyclopedia takes on more subjects, with about 1,000 entries and 1,600 illustrations. You can tell the French bias by its emphasis on small fowl such as pigeon, a full chapter on snails and a loving passage on andouillete, but I find that part of its charm. Aimed a bit more precisely at the North American and general English-speaking market, the Guide isn’t exactly slacking at 616 pages with more than 600 illustrations on the ingredients. The latter is more of a handbook you’re likely to carry on shopping excursions while the former will stay put on as a reference on a bookshelf.
Why It’s Important: Invariably, we hear that our diets should include more fruits and vegetables. Yet in the course of the project that I conducted with home cooks last year, one reason they often didn’t eat more fruits and vegetables was due to a lack of confidence in selecting and cooking them. For me, I use it as a resource when researching recipes or, on a lark, I bring home that odd vegetable from the farmer’s market and wonder, “So now what do I do with it?”