Little books about foodstuffs present sweet and sour experiences

July 21, 1993|By Charles Britton | Charles Britton,Copley News Service

On several occasions we've looked at the little-book phenomenon, the rage among publishers for miniature works of minimal size and length, designed more to be small gifts than serious additions to anyone's library.

Here we have something different: "Oil & Vinegar" and "Honey" are middle-size books -- "Honey" is 6 by 9 inches, while "Oil & Vinegar," although smaller in page size, has more than 250 of them. Both provide discussions of the indicated food stuffs, and they each contain a good deal of narrative with recipes added at the end.

Of the two, "Oil & Vinegar" is the more substantial and practical. It contains quite a compendium of information on its dual subjects, including a chart showing analyses of various oils, saturated and otherwise. The very lowest in saturated fat turns out to be mustard seed oil, with only a single percent. It has an interesting flavor, and you can find it at Indian markets.

One proviso, though, not mentioned in the book is that mustard seed oil, like some other oils, has a very distinctive, indeed repellent, flavor in the raw state. For this product, you need to "temper" it by heating it to cooking temperature, then cooling and storing.

Author Michele Jordan is a caterer in Sonoma County, Calif., and she follows her discussion of oil and vinegar with a selection of recipes. This is rather a grab bag, for one ingredient or the other shows up in so many dishes. That complaint pales in comparison to the eats, which are largely in the California Mediterranean mode.

Sue Style, author of "Honey," "divides her time between England, Switzerland and Alsace," says the publisher, and so a romance of faraway places permeates her book.

"I vividly remember wandering around the ramparts of the town of Laon in central France one early summer's evening, assaulted on all sides by the heady perfume of the lime trees," she tells us at one point.

In imagination, we're invited to stroll along. Some of her practical advice is less appealing.

"When you are on your travels, make a point of picking up some local honeys to take home," she suggests. You will recall "the citrus groves of Spain, or the thyme-clad hills of Greece."

Yes, and I might also recall the horror of seeing my suitcase, filled with honey pots, come crashing down through the luggage-mangling system at the airport.

The book is quite an elegant production, sumptuously illustrated by Graham Evernden, whose distinctive style has been seen on Crabtree & Evelyn packaging.

SMALL PORTIONS

"Oil & Vinegar" by Michele Anna Jordan

Addison Wesley ($12.95)

"Honey: From Hive to Honeypot" by Sue Style

Chronicle ($14.95)

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