This is an unusual book made up of a collection of 18 discourses on individual ingredients which were originally distributed as a newsletter. It was first published in 1992 and I was given this 2004 edition by my sister.
Initial impressions of the book are extremely positive; the writing is of very high quality and the opening treatise on salt catches the imagination. From then on however it seems to alternate between wonderfully interesting chapters and workmanlike almost Wikipedia-style dry listing of facts about certain foods. Very much in the “did you know” school of writing.
The good episodes are very very good with those on Country Ham, Eggs and Coffee being my particular favourites. He finishes on the coffee one and it is the highlight of the book. I really hadn’t a clue about that ingredient and learned a huge amount in a few compact pages.
One thing that may annoy some readers is the quite parochial US view of the food world displayed in the book. One almost feels as if he has never travelled outside of its borders. Of course Europe has to be mentioned in the chapter on mustard (another decent one) and apples (slightly disappointing) but I found the writing on dairy and beef to be very one-dimensionally American.
It is one of those books I’m glad I read and I recommend you give it a look if you want a slightly different view of food from a clearly obsessive character.