The market for food books has, at last, begun devouring itself. Every topic worth writing about has been written about, and the well of dependable, interesting information on food, once thought inexhaustible, is running dry.
In circumstances such as these, author Barry Foy believes that an honorable writer has nowhere to go but sideways, into the realm of lies, misleading claims, and baseless speculation. With nearly 1,100 entries on subjects ranging from ingredients to utensils to history to techniques, plus 246 footnotes, an extensive fraudulent bibliography, and 26 peculiar illustrations by John Boesche, The Devil’s Food Dictionary promises much-needed relief to the foodish reader who is sagging under the twin burdens of informativeness and credibility.
SOME SAMPLE ENTRIES FROM THE DEVIL’S FOOD DICTIONARY
amuse-bouche From the French word for “mouth,” this is another name for the wind-up chattering plastic teeth sold in some novelty stores. It is traditional in expensive French restaurants, on certain holidays, to glue a set of these teeth shut with caramelized sugar and then surreptitiously submerge them in a tureen of hot soup. When the soup melts the caramel, the teeth begin to chatter and bounce up and down in the dish, splashing the diners’ clothing with soup. Both customers and staff find this very “amusing.”
comfort food 1) Any type of food that you would prefer your friends did not see you enjoy; 2) the fortifying, familiar, and satisfying fare that killed your grandparents. Note: Comfort food’s opposite, discomfort food, is outlawed by the Geneva Conventions.
curing A time-consuming process by which a food that started out raw (such as ham, cheese, or fish) is painstakingly brought to a stage at which it is uncooked.
fish sauce A condiment much used in Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines, made of the liquid from fermented fish. A similar concoction called garum was a favorite of the ancient Romans. They carried it to the farthest fringes of their empire, where the Celtic tribes returned the favor by creating a sauce made of the liquid from fermenting Romans. Fish sauce imparts a distinctly non-American character to any food, and fans of beans ’n’ franks, for example, or key lime pie, will find it an unwelcome addition to those dishes.
marshmallow A puffy, pillowy sponge of springy stuff that, with all its sweet taste, snowy whiteness, and lovely melting qualities over a campfire, cannot help but remind you of one thing or another. For an idea of just how insubstantial the average marshmallow is with its air removed, consider the fact that only four times each year, the entire supply of marshmallows for the western United States leaves the Pennsylvania factory in a single truck, compressed into a globe roughly the size of a basketball that weighs some seven tons. Escorted by state troopers, the cargo makes its way to a mammoth warehouse outside of Denver, where, in a kind of controlled detonation, the marshmallows are released for packaging and final distribution. The awesome amount of energy unleashed in these sugary explosions has not gone unnoticed by scientists, who speculate that the advent of the nonpolluting, marshmallow-powered automobile may be just around the corner.
millet A tiny, protein-rich grain that is considered a staple in large areas of Asia and Africa. This is because a paste made of millet will firmly hold together the corners of two sheets of paper, much like the metal staple better known to Westerners.
quinoa A venerable South American grain named after the capital of Ecuador.
saffron Tiny red filaments that lend both flavor and color to such celebrated dishes as France’s bouillabaisse and the Italian risotto alla Milanese. Perhaps the most famous vehicle for saffron is Spain’s paella, which is fitting, since that country supplies most of the world’s stock of the ingredient. Saffron is often described as threadlike, but this is a misnomer, since it consists quite literally of threads. These come—either by deliberate plucking or through abrasion due to wear-and-tear—from the stout crimson rope, hundreds of kilometers long, that traces the traditional pilgrimage route honoring St. James and terminating in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. By royal license dating to medieval times, only the nuns of the Convent of Santa Zafarana are legally entitled to harvest saffron. But recent years have seen a troubling rise in poaching, leaving the rope threadbare in spots, even to the point of periodic breakage. One well-publicized break in 1992 caused a group of Polish pilgrims to stray far off course, ending up at a topless nightclub just outside Bilbao.
vitamins A range of nutritious elements that were once found in many commonly eaten foods, then disappeared from nearly all commonly eaten foods for a while, and are now once again found in commonly eaten foods by virtue of being added as supplements or genetically engineered into them. Originally given women’s names, like hurricanes, vitamins are currently designated by the letters A, B, C, D, E, and K, with the less-appetizing F, G, H, I, and J understandably omitted. It goes without saying that foods from cultures that do not write in Roman letters, such as Chinese and Arabic, contain no vitamins.
The Devil’s Food Dictionary:
A Pioneering Culinary Reference Work Consisting Entirely of Lies
by Barry Foy, illustrations by John Boesche
Frogchart Press, 2009, paperback, 257 pages, price $17.95
BUY YOUR COPY OF THE DEVIL’S FOOD DICTIONARY HERE