Good Books: Niki Segnit's Flavour Thesaurus Good Books to Read: Niki Segnit's Flavour Thesaurus

British food writer Niki Segnit's reference book for home cooks lists 99 flavors and 900 common flavor pairings.

Last year, British food writer Niki Segnit released a cooking reference book called The Flavour Thesauras. The book lists 99 flavors and common flavor pairings for home cooks, say, combining celery and horseradish or melding tomato and anchovy. Each of the 900 pairings (out of a possible 4,851!) comes with a short digression. You can learn about the history of the Bloody Mary, which didn't originally include celery and horseradish, or read a brief description of pizza and umami.

What I like most about the book is its design (and I'll add that the book was released in the United States, as The Flavor Thesaurus, with a different cover design), especially the inspiring illustration in the book's end paper: a colorful "flavor wheel" showcasing the 99 flavors and 16 categories—i.e., earthy, citrusy, grassy—found in the book.

Segnit's book is more poetic than encyclopedic, more of a launching point for kitchen inspiration than a comprehensive examination of odors and flavor science. For that, Martin Lersh on the excellent blog Khymos suggests the more comprehensive and equally impressive The Flavor Bible. Certainly, there's room for more exploration of the molecular science of flavors, but this book represents a provocative, visual way to rethink the recipe.