When knowledge turns into style: Encyclopedia of the Exquisite

Encyclopedia of the Exquisite

With Thanksgiving come and gone and the countdown to Christmas already started, it’s time to finalize our wish and gift lists. Well, let me help you with your gift list by suggesting an idea that, hopefully, will make one or more of the people receiving your presents very, very happy.

There are some people whose sense of style and sophistication are so classy and unique that buying a gift for them can turn into being quite a challenge. If one of these people happen to be in your life as a parent, sibling, significant other or friend, the “Encyclopedia of the Exquisite” is the book for them.

Stuff We Like!Written by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins (she was the European editor of W in Paris and she has written for Vogue), the “Encyclopedia of the Exquisite” is an eclectic compendium of historical facts and curiosities about a variety of objects, concepts and expressions that are part of our daily language and use. The book is designed to satisfy the thirst for knowledge of any person of any age and taste, no matter what their interests and hobbies are.

If cooking and drinking are their life passions, the readers will learn about ingredients and dishes such as saffron, truffles, the bon chrétien pear (generally known as the Williams or the Bartlett pear), the omelette (including Julia Child’s suggestions as to how to make the perfect omelet) as well as the history of two of the most beloved drinks: champagne and tea (including tea-making tips). The readers will even find a few lovely recipes to try out and amuse themselves with.

If fashion and beauty are the readers’ kind of poison, they will fall in love with the sections about the sequin, the frilly lingerie, the gloves, the heels, the faux jewels, the kimono, the color black, the bob haircut and the pouf hairstyle, the perfume and the red lipstick.

Encyclopedia of the Exquisite

But that’s not all! Once upon the time there was a little girl whose favorite animal was the unicorn? Well, look under the letter “U”! That section has been written for that dreaming grown-up girl. And forget Stefano when he says that he would be curious to hear what our friend and brilliant psychologist, symbologist and writer Klausbernd V. (please check his wonderful blog out, if you do not follow him already) would have to say about that! 😉

How about the expression “Shabby Chic”? I would challenge most of the people I know who like to use that expression to explain its origin to me!!! 😉 Well, a quick look under the letter “S” will unravel the mystery…

There is so much more in this book! The illustrations are simply exquisite and every page exudes elegance. Going through the Encyclopedia, readers will surely appreciate the effort that the author put into researching the topics and writing in such a way that keeps them always interested and amused.

What do they say about style? You either got it or you don’t.

Well, I think that’s true! Style cannot be taught. But, in my opinion, just “having it” is not enough. In order to blossom, the sense of style must be constantly educated and reading is one of the best ways to achieve the result.

Encyclopedia of the Exquisite

I was a lucky girl in many respects. One of these was to have a very classy mother. Anyone who knows her can vouch for that. I wish I had half the style she has! Anyway, since I was a little girl, she has been teaching me good manners, what to wear for every single occasion, which utensils to use for every dish, how to pick flowers and set a table, what should be expected of a gracious hostess and how to thank for hospitality. Still, the Encyclopedia of the Exquisite has unveiled to me countless facts and secrets about things and lifestyles that I thought I knew everything about… but didn’t! 

I’ll finish this post with a quote by the author: “beauty can be found in the most unlikely places […] and […] luxury doesn’t mean spending lots of money.” Very true, if you ask me.

If you give this book as a present to that special someone, that’s exactly what you are giving her or him for Christmas: beauty and luxury at just the price of a book.

P.S.: Needless to say, my mother bought me the Encyclopedia of the Exquisite! 🙂


About Francesca

I am a cook and the founder and art director of Flora's Table, the fine cooking and wine blog. Check us out at www.florastable.com :-)
This entry was posted in Stuff We Like and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to When knowledge turns into style: Encyclopedia of the Exquisite

  1. talkavino says:

    The book sounds very interesting… and I want to meet your mother, as your style is excellent in itself!

  2. And in a matter of two minutes, you answered my question as to what to buy my friend for Christmas. I love this. So much so, that I ordered one for my friend, one for my daughter, one for my mother (who I might add is quite elegant as well..), and of course, one for me. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Francesca says:

      No, thank you, Prudy! I’m happy I was able to help you out in only two minutes. Must be true: there is some magic dust in the air at Christmastime! 😉 I’m sure you, your friend and your family will enjoy this book immensely. After the holidays, I would like to know how your mom liked it. Please let me know when you get a chance. 🙂
      Have a lovely w/e!
      Francesca Xx

  3. What a beautiful book, I am going to order it, it will be a perfect gift for my ultra chic friend, She will love it!

  4. Fig & Quince says:

    What a fantastic gift suggestion. I’d love to have a copy for myself and am for sure giving at least one copy as a gift this year, can think of a number of people on my list who’d love this. Your mom sounds so interesting and intriguing, Francesca! As they say, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree 🙂

    • Francesca says:

      Azita, what a nice compliment you paid me! So graciously made! Thank you so much!!! 🙂
      Yes, my mom is an incredible woman! Very, very opinionated though… about everything and making her change her mind requires supernatural powers. 😉

      • Fig & Quince says:

        Would your mom agree to do a guest post? I think we (all of your devoted readers) would absolutely love that!

      • Francesca says:

        Dear Azita,
        She would love to but, you see, God showed all his mercy towards my devoted readers the day he decided that my mother could not write in English (her knowledge of the English language is quite basic although she always manages to go on shopping sprees by herself and buy fabulous stuff). 😉 Trust me: God knew what he was doing! 😉

  5. As I read down I was thinking…oh I know who I would buy this book for… I think its the perfect gift from a mother. I am off to see if they have it on UK Amazon. Thank you Francesca.

  6. Francesca says:

    Hello Maria! Yes, they should have it and yes, it is the perfect from a mother. At least, that’s what I thought when I received my copy. Only my mother could have bought it for me! 🙂
    What a lucky woman your daughter must be! And of course, I’m not only talking about the gift that she is about to receive. 🙂
    Hope you and your husband are warming up for your Montalbano’s nights. 🙂
    PS: Did you receive my email about the relatively new 6-episode series “The Young Montalbano”?

  7. This post is as elegant as a page from “Encyclopedia of the Exquisite”, Francesca! 😀

    • Francesca says:

      Oh my dear Fae! You are such a sweet, kind lady. Thank you, thank you so much! 🙂

    • Dina says:

      I totally agree, I couldn’t put it better! 🙂 Exquisite photography and yet another fascinating post, Francesca, it looks so delicate. Very classy, indeed. The book itself is an eyecatcher, with your fine setting and the gorgeous Montblanc arrangement even more. Psss… don’t tell anyone, but I went immediately to Amazon. I know someone who collects encyclopedias for a fact …Siri, Selma and myself call this person our walking encyclopedia. 🙂 This person is very much in for a BIG surpise now!! 🙂 Thank you so much, both of you, dear Francesca and Stefano.
      Have a wonderful weekend!
      Lots of love with a big hug

      • Francesca says:

        Thanks a billion for your lovely words!!! 🙂 I can tell your artist’s eye caught everything: the big picture and the little details. A gift and a curse at the same time if I may … 🙂
        I’m happy our walking encyclopedia will get a surprise: he totally deserves it! 😉
        It looks like it will snow today…
        F. Xx

  8. mmmarzipan says:

    beautiful post, amazing looking book and fabulous gift suggestion! love it!

  9. chef mimi says:

    A beautiful post. Lovely book!

  10. Dear Francesca,
    thank you very, very much for making me aware of this book I am really interested in. And thank you even more for mentioning me, that`s sooooooo kind of you 🙂
    I had to smile, at least I have got one item from your pictures for Christmas last year. Guess what? Well, the Mont Blanc ink 🙂
    I wish you a very happy weekend.
    With a big hug from Cley in the Sea

    • Dina says:

      I don’t believe this, just wait a minute… 🙂

    • Francesca says:

      You have no idea how happy your comment made me! Eventually, I caught your educated eye suggesting something you might like. You can be tremendously intimidating! 😉
      Of course, it is the Mont Blanc ink. What else? I guess, it is your kind of poison being a writer…
      F. Xx

      • Well, dear Francesca, therefore I need the horn of the unicorn to neutralize that poison 😉 And you wouldn`t believe it in Ittoqqortoormiit/NE Greenland I got the horn of narwhale offered for 8500 USD – highly illegal. First this wild hunter offered me this horn and then excellent hashish, well, so it happened at the end of the world 😉
        Have a happy Sunday

  11. Dina says:

    Your table, as seen on several occasions, is absolutely gorgeous! 🙂

    • Francesca says:

      Thank you, Dina! It is a desk. I saw it in an antique shore and I “courted” it for many months dropping hints all the time. Eventually, my highly educated guy got it (Isn’t annoying sometime to live with someone who can engage in any kind of conversation whatsoever – even if the subject is the ants’ reproductive system – and say sound things???) and bought it for my birthday last year. I think it’s lovely and – as you may appreciate – it photographs very well! 🙂
      F. Xx

      • Dina says:

        I LOVE stories like this! 🙂 The desk is big compliment to any surrounding and you surely deserves it.
        Hihihi, I know what you mean…..
        My walking dictionary answers the phone in the middle of something and …”hello, this is the german radio station XXyl, we’d like to make an appointment for an interview with Mr. Vollmar” – most of the times the interview takes place there and then, because Mr.Vollmar likes to get over with it. Honestly, it’s like pressing a button, never shy of an answer to any question… 🙂
        I’m sure the HEG (highly educated guy) and the WED (walking encyclopedian dictionary) will get on so well… why don’t we open a nice bottle of something bubbly and make a well deserved toast to the great men!
        Cheers! 🙂
        Dina Xx

      • Francesca says:

        I’m raising my glass right now. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Dina says:

        Ha, cheers! 🙂

      • Wow!
        THANK YOU _
        🙂 🙂 🙂
        I drink to our dear intelligent ladies
        CHEERS – it with Oude Genever, relly old, very tasty …
        Kb xxx

  12. Great idea! This book is going on my list–I need to give it to someone. But really, I hope someone gives it to me. It sounds luscious.

    “beauty can be found in the most unlikely places […] and […] luxury doesn’t mean spending lots of money.” I think that everyone with true style intrinsically understands that.

  13. Francesca says:

    I couldn’t agree more! 🙂 As for someone giving you this book, may I suggest you start dropping hints to someone very close to you and with great culinary skills? 😉

  14. Sorry, dear Flora, that I didn`t write about the sybolism of the unicorn yesterday but the flood was still distracting me. Now I had time to look for “unicorn” in my Dictionary of Symbols (and translate parts of it):

    The unicorn is an ancient symbol of innocence and purity. It`s said that it`s horn can neutralise all the toxins by dipping the horn in the poisoned liquid. It can be caught only if it puts his horn in a Virgin’s womb. So innocence and phallic desire are merged in one image.
    The unicorn is a marker of a fantastic world of fairy tales.
    The unicorn is still considered to bring good luck in China and even in the popular dream interpretations of Europe it is said that dreaming of a unicorn brings luck. In the life of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius the unicorn plays an important role in the beginning and the end of his life. It`s a positive symbol there as well. The unicorn is one of the few symbols that are always seen as positive.
    In the Christian Middle Ages you could read the above-mentioned story of the Virgin and the Unicorn in numerous publications. Since the purity is a key attribute of Mary, the Unicorn was seen as Mary, but also sometimes as Jesus himself.
    In his widely acclaimed travel novel “In Patagonia” Bruce Chatwin describes how Father Palacios believes that unicorns lived in Patagonia in the 6th to the 5th Millennium BC and were exterminated by the people of that time.

    I suppose if your little princess has dreamt of an unicorn it can be seen as the unicorn being her as well as being you, the parents. It shows she still lives in the magical world of the fairy tales which provides her with safety. And as your little princess is the unicorn herself I would see it as a positiv self esteem: she is something of inportance in her world.
    By the way, it`s normal that chidren dream of animals, actually mostly of monsters (which symbolize the parents), that`s to sublimate aggression. It`s a sign of a great well being if a child remembers dreams of positive animals.

    Have a happy Sunday with your family.
    With a big HUG

  15. Dear Francesca,

    Thank you so much for the heads-up on this book. I think I would like it a lot so I am going to put it on my Amazon wish list and will include it in my Christmas order next week. A gift to myself! I love everything on your table especially the gorgeous china. 😉

    With good wishes from B xxx

  16. Mary says:

    Beautiful post Francesca, think I will order this book.

  17. ChgoJohn says:

    This is such a great post, Francesca, and the book sounds like a good read, as well as a thoughtful gift. Thanks for the recommendation.

  18. Francesca says:

    The pleasure was all mine, John! Glad you liked the post.
    Have a great week.
    F. Xx

  19. What a fantastic gift idea! In terms of style, I agree that you either have it or don’t. I do like the idea that it can be learned though! I’ve never thought of my myself as an overly stylish person, so this would be a perfect read 🙂

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