Whether you’re a master chef, a home cook, a food freak, or just a master at crossword puzzles, you will become addicted to The New Food Lover’s Companion now in it’s fourth edition.
This gem has been carefully researched and written by Sharon Tyler Herbst, someone who clearly loves her some food. The book’s second edition cover reads, “Comprehensive definitions of over 4000 food, wine and culinary terms”. The current fourth edition has swelled to 6000 definitions. Herbst is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and knows her subject matter nose to tail. So far, she has penned no less than eight food and wine bestsellers one of which has the delicious name Never eat more than you can lift.
The New Food Lover’s Companion includes an appendix brimming with useful information like weights & measures, emergency ingredient substitutions, and butchering diagrams for Lamb, Pork, Veal, and Beef. I was mildly disappointed at the omission of Poultry although once you know “breast, wing, leg, thigh, neck and back” you’ve got birds covered.
One thing that troubles me is the design change that has occurred in the new edition. The earlier version of the book’s cover is simply more… well “bookish” and much more iconic than the new version. It is illustrated with a whimsically loose Milton Glaser-esque colored pen and ink drawing of a crossed knife, fork, and spoon tied in a bright yellow ribbon with a strawberry impaled on the fork. The typography is simplicity itself. Clean, classic, stylish and extremely legible. The new edition, regrettably has none of the charm or wit of the original and the cover photography consists of a collection of commonplace herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables meticulously arranged on what looks like a textured, Tuscan tabletop, practically lit, and competently photographed. This coupled with it’s red, and green color palette mistakenly suggests a compendium of “Italian” food items found in nonna’s pantry, not the definitions of 6000 food terms spanning the entire culinary universe. The headline typography is large, lackluster, and an example of “style by Photoshop”.
OK, so what’s the difference you might ask. The primary difference between the two is the latter cover’s pure lack of thoughtfulness. It is probably also a classic example of design “in-sourcing” which due to economics hires an in-house department of “digital experts” not designers. This coupled with a muscular (read “bullying”), marketing expert “directing” the creative process and you have a product that invariably will sell from a budget bin but never evokes the wonder, and wisdom of the literature found between the covers. It is dull, and “decorated”, not “designed”. A poor, sad, costume for this blissfully, rich and enduring word cornucopia. May edition five go back to it’s roots. It is truly a classic book which deserves a classic design.