Though our culinary pendulum is unlikely to swing so far from nouvelle cuisine as to sweep a diet of wurst and potatoes into fashion, this authoritative compendium should be welcomed as the guide for Americans who wish to explore German food--and as interesting reading and reference even for those who aren't inclined to try the typically hearty recipes. Scharfenberg begins with a tour--lively, honest, and refreshingly free of gush--of 17 gastronomic regions. Here, we cross Bavaria's ""Weisswurst Equator"" and learn that the region's famed sausage must be eaten so fresh that it should never be allowed ""to hear the chimes at noon."" Elsewhere, Scharfenberg shares his childhood memories of the aroma of a Thurigian street vender's grilled bratwurst; recalls the extinct Schleswig-Holstein custom of gathering new plantain greens along the beaches in early spring; and points to two cheese recipes from different regions as indicative of the differences between beer- and wine-based cuisine. The recipes that follow--long on potatoes, cabbage, bacon, game, and Vinegar--won't change anyone's impression of German food but will impress browsers with Scharfenberg's appreciation for regional variations, his thought in translating old usages, his respect for humble tradition (there's a stew made from butchering-day by-products, including ""a piece of pig's head""), and his talent for the amusing anecdote.