Heston Blumenthal (Bloomsbury, $199, hbk)
It's the big book for Christmas, this. Whether you're talking dimensions, detail, cost or just plain weight, this baby has heft. Made up in large part by the research Heston Blumenthal did into old English cooking to design the menu for his London restaurant, Dinner, its 400-plus pages encompass only 28-odd actual dishes, starting with the "rice and flesh" of 1390 and concluding with 1892's mock-turtle soup, but it covers them to the nth degree. The tipsy cake section, for instance, covers everything from the Victorian mania for pineapples and the British obsession with hothouse gardening to the 1845 abolition of the glass tax. The photography is good, but of particular note are the illustrations by Dave McKean.
Cookability: 2/10. Readability: 8/10. Pictures: 8/10. Go-to dish: quaking pudding.
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