Food is more than cooking and this enormous compendium is more than a cookbook; it is also, however, somewhat less than the refer-all that it appears to be. Skipping past the introductory puff for ""the amenities that add charm and beauty to any repast or meal"" (italics ours), you quickly arrive at a practical impasse that recurs throughout: inadequate indexing. The novice is advised to start with something simple like ""frosty old-fashioned chocolate ice cream sodas""; ignoring the multiple modifiers (another characteristic), you search for, and fail to find, this delectable item under either chocolate or ice cream or sodas--it's a beverage. So is lemonade--and Welsh Rabbit and popcorn are similarly concealed. Besides frustrating the cook-in-the-kitchen, the absence of specific entries (and cross-references) weakens the general sections (e.g. Holidays, Parties) which refer to recipes. With the exception of an unusually comprehensive glossary, the miscellaneous information (on nutrition, herbs and spices, shopping, equipment, table manners, table setting) is diffuse and effusive; sometimes it's suspect (suggesting that everyone black-peppers baked potatoes, that the ""basic proportions"" for coffee are two tablespoons per cup of water). The recipes, surprisingly, are generally sound (although heavily dependent on prepared mixes) with this significant exception; they don't teach fundamental processes as such. Thus, the instructions for Roast Beef assume a 4 lb roast and tell you to cook it for two hours at 325 for a medium result; they don't tell what to do with a smaller or larger cut or how to achieve a different result or how to use a meat thermometer. Teenagers to whom this is addressed will need more than an ounce of imagination.