Cooking can be a wondrous adventure, especially with a thorough understanding of the history and origins of food, a grasp of the cultures and environments involved, and an appreciation for those who over the years have played key roles in its development. 'The Food Encyclopedia' has 8,000 entries, with cross-reference on foods, wines, beverages, cooking methods and techniques, and biographies of prominent people. It is the most comprehensive food reference in the marketplace today, featuring 500 stunning illustrations and photographs alongside its extensive coverage. In the entry on arugula, for example, we read that it is an assertive salad green, eruca sativa, has a peppery taste somewhere between nasturtium and watercress, and is used frequently in Mediterranean dishes. The ancient Romans used both the leaves and the seeds of arugula. Thomas Jefferson, in detailed written instructions to his gardener at Monticello, listed arugula as essential for his kitchen garden. Included are more than 150 biographies of prominent individuals - chefs, authors and inventors - who have contributed to food and its lore. Chefs include Julia Child, Paul Bocuse, Alice Waters and Michael Stadtlander. Among the notable authors are Elizabeth David, M.F.K. Fisher and Irma S. Rombauer. The inventors include Carl Sontheimer the developer of the Cuisinart food processor. Becoming more familiar with words and terms, and finding out the background behind a food or an ingredient, ensures a well-prepared dish and adds to the pleasure of serving it. For any cook, this authoritative and fascinating book is an outstanding reference and cookbook companion.