The Diner's Dictionary cover

The Diner’s Dictionary: Word Origins of Food and Drink

I’ll start this review by explaining why I’ve been a) not cooking an awful lot and b) reading a lot of books lately. The reason for both is that I’m currently off work resting after a minor operation on a hernia (rest being a rather optimistic term, given that Mia – now almost 4 years old – has a lack of sympathy for said condition and would rather spend my time off playing).

One of the books I’ve spent my time flicking through is this, The Diner’s Dictionary. It reads kind of like a mini version of Larousse Gastronomique; lots of very interesting facts about food, only this time in a book I can actually hold.

When I first looked at the cover I thought this would be a quick 5 gimmicky minute read about some funny food related word origins. The back cover blurb hardly does the book justice and reads:

Did you know that the word ‘crêpe’ comes from the Latin crispus for curled? Have you ever had ‘angry’ pasta (all’arrabbiata)?

Ignore the funnies though and this is actually a really useful little book. Despite being of hand held size (at 400 pages) the type is small meaning there really is a lot packed in here. The descriptions are pleasantly detailed while still using language one can relate to; the definition for eiswein for example begins “it seems scarcely plausible that anyone should wish to make wine from frozen grapes, but that is essentially what eiswein is”. Simple, and to the point.

All in all this book would make a great gift for any foodie who (like me) already has shelves straining with traditional recipe books.

The Diner’s Dictionary by John Ayto is out now, and is available via Amazon and other good retailers at around £12.99

The Diner's Dictionary cover

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