What makes good food good? When Edward Behr sets out to answer that question, his quest leads from the seemingly prosaic properties of salt and pepper to the differences among vanilla of different origins: Bourbon, Mexican, Tahitian. Plenty is written about food all the time, but only a little of that contributes to a fuller appreciation for and understanding of basic ingredients. Behr does that along with providing mouthwatering descriptions of flavors, textures, and aromas.In The Artful Eater, with intellectual curiosity and physical pleasure, Behr unveils the complexities of bean, roasting, and brewing that make a perfect cup of coffee. He investigates why some cream has much more dairy flavor than others, why gray salt tastes more intense than white, why some Southern country ham is on the same level as great Italian prosciutto. Behr investigates eggs, walnuts, wild and tame sorrel, Atlantic salmon, roast beef, and apples, among other foods.He enriches our enjoyment of eating by tracing the natural origins and cultural history of these foods. By consulting mustard seed brokers in Saskatchewan, mussels growers in Maine, ham curers in Kentucky, a spice merchant in Baltimore, and a walnut researcher in Bordeaux, Behr discovers truths about quality that are all but unknown.The Artful Eater contains a good measure of practical information--there are recipes and advice on the correct use and preparation of food. But at its heart the book is an appreciation of individual ingredients, the excellent raw materials on which all great food depends.