cover image Lateral Cooking

Lateral Cooking

Niki Segnit. Bloomsbury, $40 (612p) ISBN 978-1-63557-264-3

U.K. food writer Segnit (The Flavor Thesaurus) brings a vast breadth of knowledge to this massive and quietly playful exploration of the art and science of cooking. In what is as much a personal culinary history as it is a reference, Segnit is as likely to recall dining on tapas along the Camino de Santiago in Spain as she is to cite one of the hundreds of cookbooks she draws on for source material or to discuss the role of clam chowder in Moby Dick. Her mission is to present intuitive cooking as a learnable skill, one that can be developed through an understanding of how certain foods relate to each other in terms of how they are prepared. Learning to master a basic flatbread is the starting point for a panoply of connected dishes along a continuum that proceeds from crackers and soda bread to buns and brioche. A dozen such culinary trails are uncovered in categories that include sauces, chocolate, roux, and nuts, where, for example, marzipan easily transforms into macaroons. Home cooks can tinker with the many “flavors & variations” provided for each dish, or experiment with ingredients by taking heed of “leeway” options that suggest, for example, doubling the molasses and halving the sugar for an extra-sticky loaf of gingerbread. This extraordinary cookbook provides a treasure map full of both straightforward satisfactions and rewarding detours. (Nov.)