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The Caterer

How the British fell in love with food – book review

06 April 2010 by
How the British fell in love with food – book review

How the British Fell in Love With Food
Compiled by Lewis Esson
Simon & Schuster, £25
ISBN 978-1-84737-649-7

In 1984 the Guild of Food Writers was launched, with the likes of Derek Cooper, Prue Leith and Claudia Roden among its 40 or so founding members. Today the association represents nearly 400 food writers, who as well as filling countless column inches in newspapers and magazines and writing books, are now increasingly deploying their skills on websites and blogs.

How the British Fell in Love With Food celebrates the 25th anniversary of the guild by chronicling a period in history that has witnessed a dramatic change in people's attitudes to and appreciation of food.

While chefs - through TV, books of their own and increasingly newspaper and magazine columns - have contributed hugely to this development, it would be foolhardy to ignore the enormous contribution made by those food writers who have inspired, encouraged and cajoled readers to try new ingredients and dishes.

The book comprises a collection of published articles and recipes from the past 25 years, which highlight how far the world of food has developed in that time.

Some of the contributors - such as the late Jane Grigson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - are widely recognisable, others are not. Many, though, while quietly working below the radar, have made a real difference to the quality and variety of food we all now enjoy. For instance, the writings of the late Michael Bateman - one of the first modern investigative food journalists and a vigorous campaigner during the 1980s for consumers to be able to enjoy bread that is tasty, healthy and good value - are reprinted here.

There has been some unease among the food writing fraternity in recent years that editors are replacing established food writers with celebrity chefs. Although it is acknowledged that said chefs may bring an increased profile to a publication, there is concern that populism is winning at the expense of in-depth knowledge and campaigning verve provided by serious food writers.

This book honours the enormous contribution made by those writers. It would be a shame if there was not enough material to fill a second volume in another 25 years.

See Fuschia Dunlop's recipe for Fish-fragrant aubergine taken from the book.

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