Bibliophile’s Book Find : food for thought

Alright all of you foodies here at FSC – this week’s treasure in the Reference Room is dedicated to you. The books that I found in the TX section of the stacks were so electrifying, I couldn’t choose just one. At the recommendation of the Supreme Reference Goddess Marion Slack, I am going to tell you about two of our dictionaries dedicated to one of my favorite subjects – food!

Food : A Dictionary of Literal and Nonliteral Terms by Robert A. Palmatier (Greenwood Press, 2000) is a book that gives the definitions and origins of both culinary terms, as well as terms that include food or eating-related words. For example, most of us have heard the phrase, “American as apple pie”, and understand it to mean that something is “truly American”. Did you know that this phrase has been around since the 1760s, and that apple pies were actually brought to the U.S. from England? However, English apple pies generally do not contain a top crust, while American apple pies have a top crust with a side of either cheddar cheese or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (See page 4 for more details about this phrase). This entertaining book defines and traces many other phrases as well, including, “Hear it through the grapevine” (pg. 176), “fork in the road”(p. 139), “potatohead”(pg. 287) (as well as a discussion of Mr. Potato Head) and “Say Cheese!” (pg. 314)

The International Dictionary of Food & Cooking by Charles G. Sinclair (Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1998) provides relatively short definitions to the many different words related to “ingredients, additives, techniques, equipment, menu terms, catering terms, food science”… and more (title page)! Discover what exactly a “punkersdorker” is on page 436, or learn the true measurement of the word, “pinch” when it is called for in a recipe (pg. 414). Did you know that a “cushaw” is “a large variety of crookneck squash”, and that this word originated from the United States (pg. 156)? Expand your gastronomic horizons about try some fattoush for lunch today (pg. 197).

You can find Food: A Dictionary of Literal and Nonliteral Terms in the Reference Room at Ref TX 349 .P353 2000. The International Dictionary of Food & Cooking is also in the Reference Room, at Ref TX 349 .S55 1998. The Reference Room is room 118 on the first floor of the Library – stop by and check out these delicious titles.

If you have any questions about this or any other resource, contact a Reference Librarian in person, by phone at 508-626-4654, by email at or IM at fscrefdesk. If you would like to suggest a treasure in the library’s Reference Room, please email me at


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