Don’t mistake The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs, written by Padma Laksmi with Judith Sutton and Kalustyans, for an advertisement. Yes, Lakshmi is a Food Network star with model looks, a high-profile divorce, and tell-all memoir. And yes, Kalustyan’s is a specialty market in New York City, famed for its spices.
As for Judith Sutton, hers is a name sharp-eyed cookbook readers come to recognize: the writer who often works the hardest, earns the least, and whose name tends to appear in the smallest print. An experienced cookbook author and co-author, Sutton’s name is reassurance that The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs is a serious work. At no time does the book push Kalyustan’s as a marketplace.
The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs doesn’t set out to be the bedtime reading of today’s popular cookbooks. Instead, this comprehensive reference text lists spices and herbs from achiote to zedoary. Definitions include geographical origins, appearance, and uses both medicinal and culinary. Evan Sung’s photography is attractive and informative, helpful in this instance when acquainting readers with unfamiliar spices or herbs. My single critique of this book is its cost, for at $39.99, The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs is steep, which is a shame. Perhaps a softcover edition will be released, making it widely available.
Home culinary exploration has never been more fervent, leading curious cooks around the world in recipes. A reference like The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs make that journey easier, and would most welcome in any kitchen.