Alas for the glut of vegetable cookbooks: Spear is a competent recipe-presenter, a pleasantly civilized writer, a decent enough purveyor of minimal background information--and not particularly distinguishable from any other author putting together an anthology of international oddments like spinach salad with a Japanese-y sesame seed dressing, Middle Eastern pickled turnips, broccoli and penne tossed with pesto, nouvelie-style onion ""confiture,"" green salad with lightly baked goat cheese. There are also some unpretentious old favorites like Harvard beets, corn pudding, French fries with good technical suggestions, and plain ungourmet-ified split pea soup. What is lacking is the original verve of something like Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book (1979) or the lively first-hand insights into vegetables in-the-raw provided by Marian Morash's The Victory Garden Cookbook (1982). On the plus side, the organization is uncommonly lucid and handy (mixed-vegetable preparations, grains, a good selection of stocks and sauces, and a few classic vegetable garnishes all reserved for treatment in their own right), and the presentation of background information for individual vegetables is attractive and easy to refer to. Usable, capable, but very much run of the current mill.