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Seasoned generously with literary wit, A Diner's Dictionary is a veritable feast, tracing the origins and history of over 1,200 gastronomical words and phrases. John Ayto spreads across our table a veritable cornucopia, from common fruits and vegetables (apples, cherries, apricots, and broccoli, to name a few), to exotic foreign dishes such as gado-gado, nasi goreng, satay, and dashi, and even junk foods such as doughnuts, brownies, and candy.
Ayto provides fascinating capsule histories of the various foods. He tells us, for instance, that cantaloup was introduced into Europe from Armenia and was apparently first cultivated at Cantaluppi, a former summer estate of the popes near Rome. We learn the ingredients of baggis, hailed by Burns as "great chieftain o' the puddin'-race"; that the name of the Scandinavian drink "aquavit" ultimately derives from Latin aqua vitae, or "water of life"; that the word "biscuit" means "twice cooked"; and that Melba toast and peach Melba were both named in honor of opera singer Nellie Melba.
From jambalaya and callaloo, to arrowroot and shiitake, A Diner's Dictionary is a food-lover's dream, filled with information and fascinating lore.
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About the Author:
John Ayto is a freelance lexicographer. He co-edited The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang with John Simpson.
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