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Price: $75.00

Hardback 960 pp.
200 line drawings, 219 mm x 276 mm



Publication date:
August 2014

Imprint: OUP UK

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The Oxford Companion to Food

Third Edition

Alan Davidson
Edited by Tom Jaine

Series : Oxford Companions

"the best food reference work ever to appear in the English language ... read it and be dazzled"
Bee Wilson, New Statesman

First published in 1999, the ground-breaking Oxford Companion to Food was an immediate success and won prizes and accolades around the world. Its blend of serious food history, culinary expertise, and entertaining serendipity, was and remains unique.

Interest in food, cooking, and the culture surrounding food has grown enormously in the intervening period, as has the study of food and food history. University departments, international societies, and academic journals have sprung up dedicated to exploring the meaning of food in the daily lives of people around the world, alongside an ever-increasing number of articles, books, programmes, and websites in the general media devoted to the discussion of food, making the Oxford Companion to Food more relevant than ever.

Already a food writing classic, this Companion combines an exhaustive catalogue of foods, be they biscuits named after battles, divas or revolutionaries; body parts (from nose to tail, toe to cerebellum); or breads from the steppes of Asia or the well-built ovens of the Mediterranean; with a richly allusive commentary on the culture of food, expressed in literature and cookery books, or as dishes peculiar to a country or community.

While building on the Companion's existing strengths, Tom Jaine has taken the opportunity to update the text and alert readers to new perspectives in food studies. There is new coverage of attitudes to food consumption, production and perception, such as food and genetics, food and sociology, and obesity. New entries include terms such as convenience foods, drugs and food, Ethiopia, leftovers, medicine and food, pasta, and many more. There are also new entries on important personalities who are of special significance within the world of food, among them Clarence Birdseye, Henri Nestlé, and Louis Pasteur.

In its new edition the Companion maintains its place as the foremost food reference resource for study and home use.

Readership : The Oxford Companion to Food has had a wide and enthusiastic readership since its first publication in 1999, when a general interest in food, and in the academic study of food, was taking off. The new edition will appeal directly to both these groups, and to the burgeoning numbers of food professionals, that is to anyone with a serious interest in food.


  • "an awe-inspiring work of love and dedication to the one thing that unites all of us human beings - our daily food. From haute to humble, spice to ice, Asian to Inuit, cannibalism to veganism, it is all here, gathered eloquently, wittily, deliciously and irresistibly between two covers."

    --Sophie Grigson

  • "A food book for all time. The canon of great food literature just got one fat volume greater ... A must-have for any serious food follower"


  • "Many things about the Companion are extremely impressive, but this sheer range is almost dumbfounding."

    --John Lancaster, Evening Standard

  • "a magnificent feast, over 20 years in gestation, eagerly awaited and well worth the wait."

    --Philippa Davenport, Financial Times

  • "the best food reference work ever to appear in the English language ... read it and be dazzled"

    --Bee Wilson, New Statesman

  • "a strange and delicious guide to all things edible"

    --Elizabeth Gleick, Independent on Sunday

  • "a major and serious work, but engagingly eccentric around the edges .... The main problem in using it is that one thing leads to another"

    --Christopher Hirst, Independent

  • "The publishing event of the year if not the decade ... Alan Davidson, the legendarily learned (and eccentric) former British diplomat and international authority on seafood ... and godfather of food scholars around the world, has written most of the 2,650 entries, in itself a stupendous feat .... Everyone seriously interested in food must own this book .... A great achievement."

    --Corby Kummer, New York Times Book Review

  • "This massive volume is nothing short of the grandest of smorgasbords .... For serious food historians, this will no doubt become an irreplaceable companion. For those amateurs who are merely fascinated by food and who appreciate lucid and witty writing that seeks to deflate the pretentions of your average gastronome, it will provide hours of amusement."

    --Elizabeth Gleick, Time Magazine

  • "A masterly work with a variety of voices, from the straightforward, almost dry to the the quirky and witty .... It's hard not to be awed by 892 pages dense with extremely thorough and well-written entries, enhanced by cross-references and indexes and larded with anecdotes and strong opinions."

    --Florence Fabricant, New Tork Times

  • "Serendipity is a rewarding way to negotiate this colossal volume. Looking up 'chuck' will lead you to 'chuck wagon', to 'sourdough', and to 'sonofabitch stew, a cowboy dish of unusual character' .... Some day the field of food history ... will achieve full academic status and respectability. This will be largely thanks to Mr. Davidson's labors and 'The Oxford Companion to Food'."

    --Paul Levy, Wall Street Journal

  • "A culinary sine qua non ... This 892-page tour de force will enlighten you as to the history, cultivation, and flavor of every edible you've ever heard of and hundreds you never even knew existed."

    --Men's Journal

  • "Outstanding ... Davidson deserves the eternal gratitude of researchers everywhere .... Destined to become a classic."

    --Library Journal (starred review)

  • "Alan Davidson's masterly encyclopaedia is the only reference book you need."

    --The Times

  • "Far more entertaining, addictive and idiosyncratic than any reference book has a right to be."

    --Christopher Hirst, The Independent 12/03/2010

  • "Monumental."

    --Christopher Hirst, The Independent 11.12.09

  • "There is no better way to stave off the winter blues than the second edition of Alan Davidson's The Oxford Companion to Food. Tom Jaine has taken over from the late Davidson and he is a worthy heir. This gem of food reference retains the wit, elegance, erudition and style that made the first edition so memorable."

    --Tom Parker Bowles, Mail on Sunday (Live - Night and Day) 28/01/2007

  • "Seriously fascinating"

    --Cathy Pryor, Independent 10.12.06

  • "No kitchen should be without The Oxford Companion to Food 2nd Edition. An absorbing culinary reference book, worth its weight in foie gras."

    --Image Magazine Ireland Nov/Dec 2006

  • "Extraordinarily comprehensive and detailed. As a reference book it is unlikely to be surpassed but it is also a fun book to dip into and every page includes masses of startling and original information."

    --Country Landowner Magazine November 2006

  • "The Oxford Companion to Wine - like the Food Companion it is detailed, scholarly and endlessly fascinating."

    --Country Landowner Magazine November 2006

  • "essential reference guide"

    --Daily Express 01/09/2006

  • "Brilliantly original"

    --Sunday Telegraph Stella Magazine

  • "An astonishing encyclopaedia of food, food history and culinary knowledge ... Enjoyable to read, enlivened by Alan Davidson's easy wit and humour ... This book will appeal to anyone with a serious interest in food - Especially if they like their facts spiced with a little humour"

    --Food magazine 01/10/2006

  • "Apart from TS Eliot's Four Quartets, which this is a match for, it is the greatest book in the English language. Alan Davidson is the patron saint of QI"

    --John Lloyd (creator of BBC's QI on BBC4's The Man Who Ate Everything)

  • "an amazing book ... which all of you should have if you're doing research in the field of cooking"

    --Martha Stewart

  • "What Alan Davidson created, in his eccentric, free-wheeling, intellectually curious, erudite way was nothing less than a kind of portrait of the whole human race in all its ingenuity, told exclusively through stories about the food we eat"

    --Andrew Graham-Dixon on BBC4's The Man Who Ate Everything
  • "probably the most important food book that I've ever read"

    --Peter Gordon, chef

Tom Jaine: Alan Davidson: A Tribute
Tom Jaine: Preface to the Third Edition
Tom Jaine: Preface to the Second Edition
Alan Davidson: Introduction
Subject Index
Note on Using this Book
The Oxford Companion to Food A-Z

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Alan Davidson was a distinguished author and publisher, and one of the world's best-known writers on fish and fish cookery. In 1975 he retired early from the diplomatic service - after serving in, among other places, Washington, Egypt, Tunisia, and Laos, where he was British Ambassador - to pursue a fruitful second career as a food historian and food writer extraordinaire. Among his popular books are North Atlantic Seafood and Mediterrranean Seafood. In 2003, shortly before his death, he was awarded the Erasmus Prize for his contribution to European culture. Tom Jaine is an independent writer and publisher, specializing in food and food history. He is the author of numerous books, including Cooking in the Country, Making Bread at Home, and Traditional Country House Cooking. He frequently writes for The Times, The Guardian, the Sunday Telegraph, the Evening Standard, and many magazines and journals. He was editor of The Good Food Guide from 1989 to 1994, has presented "The Food Programme" on Radio 4, and has participated in discussions of food on radio and television.

There are no related titles available at this time.

Special Features

  • Over 3,000 entries on every possible food, its history, cultural significance, and culinary usage.
  • Third edition of this international bestseller, which won numerous prizes and accolades around the world when first published in 1999.
  • Retains the original spirit of the book (and almost all of Davidson's writing) while reviewing, updating, and adding to the text.
  • Almost 200 beautiful line drawings, which are enhanced by a two-colour text design.