You'll find a few examples on food-related topics listed below. You can find others by searching in the library catalogue. Just add the word encyclopedias or dictionaries to your search keywords.
Scholarly encyclopedias usually provide "mini-essays" written by experts on a certain topic. They also include references to important books and articles on the subject.
Wikipedia can be a great place to start your research: to find basic background information and to define terms. Use it cautiously, though. Anyone can add information to Wikipedia, so you really don't know whether you can trust it. Always verify facts and claims in another source. The references provided can be excellent pointers to scholarly sources.
Specialized dictionaries help you to define terms and understand how they are used in a specific scholarly discipline.