Journal

Praise, rants, interviews and comment from some of Britain’s liveliest food writers.
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28 October 2017

A Bay Leaf from Thomas Hardy’s Birthplace

Journal

Tom, the bay leaf I’m putting in this boeuf a la mode was plucked from a tree growing in the garden of Tomas Hardy’s birthplace,’ Catherine called from the kitchen. She did not really expect an answer and indeed none came from Tom sitting hunched over his typewriter, so she went on, almost to herself, […]

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19 October 2017

A Day for D’Arcy Spice

Journal

As one supermarket chain has discovered, it’s time to start growing your own English apples. By Edan Ambrose It’s Apple Day on Saturday – a chance to celebrate the astonishing varieties of apples that still exist in this country, or a day or mourning for those that we’ve lost. It’s a difficult call; native English […]

 
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18 September 2017

Strawberry Hill plus five of the best places for tea

Journal

Horace Walpole,  politician, gossip and man of letters, first moved into Strawberry Hill, his gothic fantasy villa by the Thames in 1747 and stayed put for the next 50 years. This month the house is hosting a series of events to celebrate the writer’s tercentenary, including an 18th-century style tea party. Guests will be served […]

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14 September 2017

Coming up in October

Journal

Feasting at Stonehenge what did the people who built it eat and how did they cook it… Q&A: Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi reveal all about simple Italian food, date night suppers and inheritance recipes Five of the best on-line suppliers of Greek, Italian and French food, winter recipes, chocolate bars English apples growing your own […]

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31 August 2017

M F K Fisher eats oysters at Crespin’s in Dijon

Journal

Then there was Crespin’s, the simplest and one of the best restaurants in the world… in the winters an old oysterman stood outside always by his fish, stamping his feet like a horse and blowing on his huge bloody mottled hands. He had baskets of dark brown woven twigs, with the oysters lying impotently on […]

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26 August 2017

H L Mencken on Baltimore cuisine in the 1880s

Journal

How the stomachs of Baltimore survived at all in those days is a pathological mystery. The standard evening meal tended to be light but the other two were terrific. The repertoire for breakfast, beside all the known varieties of pancake and porridge, included such things as ham and eggs, broiled mackerel, fried smelts, beef hash, […]

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29 July 2017

Kitchen tricks of the walnut

Journal

Christopher Hirst visits the heart of Kent to discover the dark secrets of the pickled walnut For some of us, a small, knobbly, brown-black, oval nut is the apogee of pickles. Good all year round, it really comes into its own on Boxing Day when it plays a star role. Sliced into sour-sweet, tantalisingly flavoured […]

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26 July 2017

Anselm likes tripe

Journal

The culinary preferences of German painter Anselm Kiefer were revealed on a recent stroll round New York’s West Side Kiefer reached the river, and walked north. He recalled the area as he first knew it, on visits to New York in the Seventies and Eighties; he had explored unsafe piers, and watched the demolition of […]

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19 June 2017

Food notes from Catania

Journal

Sicily’s second city Catania has a wealth of restaurants, food markets, chocolate and fine Sicilian wine. By Nick Welch Catania, Sicily’s second city,  is on the eastern coast, slightly overlooked by the hoards of tourists that pour into Palermo,  but  well worth a visit in its own right. Catania is, first and foremost, a real […]

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19 June 2017

Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, presents a pasta course in Sicily in 1860

Journal

When three lackeys in green, gold and powder entered, each holding a great silver dish containing a towering macaroni pie, only four of the twenty at table avoided showing pleased surprise… All the others showed their pleased relief in varying ways, from the fluty and ecstatic grunts of the notary to the sharp squeak of […]

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19 June 2017

Alphabetti Spaghetti

Journal

Cannelloni, conchiglioni and conchigliette…Sally Bayley recalls an early lesson in Swiss-Italian cuisine As an eight year old child I was sent abroad to stay with a Swiss-Italian family. The mother spent a great deal of time in the kitchen, pulling sausage-strips of pasta from a silvery machine. I dutifully recorded this domestic ritual in my […]

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25 May 2017

James Lees-Milne experiences aristocratic hospitality in 1944

Journal

Prospecting possible properties for the National Trust during the Second World War, James Lees-Milne was often offered fare by his patrician hosts that was meagre even by wartime standards. His experience when surveying the Duke of Wellington’s country pile at Stratfield Saye near Reading (above) marked a notable nadir. ‘Having eaten little luncheon I was […]

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17 May 2017

The Original GI Diet

Journal

Peanut butter, hot sausages and doughnuts….novelist Marianne Kavanagh explores what happened when the Yanks arrived in wartime Dorset Bread and tea, tea and bread – when I started researching my new novel, I kept coming across these staples of our British diet. A story built from a snippet of Dorset history in 1878 grew into […]

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11 May 2017

Use Your Loaf

Journal

Kneading, proving, baking… is homemade bread really worth the effort? Emma Hagestadt rises to the challenge Cactus Kitchens, based in Clapham North, is home both to the TV series Saturday Kitchen, and Michel Roux’s popular cookery school. It’s the perfect place for anyone with a secret desire to bake at a GBBO-style workstation, as well […]

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10 May 2017

Jerome K Jerome’s Irish stew

Journal

The Irish stew made at the mid-point of the celebrated voyage reflects the British belief, still strongly held, that more or less anything can be incorporated in this kind of dish. ‘George said it was absurd to have only four potatoes in an Irish stew, so we washed half-a-dozen or so more, and put them […]

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26 April 2017

Food Photographer of the Year

Journal

Winner of the 2017, increasingly prestigious, Pink Lady Food Photographer of the year is Bangladeshi-based Shoeb Faruquee. His photograph, Food For God (above) ‘stood out from the rest’ said Andy Macdonald, CEO of Pink Lady in the UK, ‘in the way in which he made the subject matter – cooking for the breaking of a […]

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22 April 2017

Joni Mitchell’s breakfast

Journal

Woke up it was a Chelsea morning and the first thing that I knew, There was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges too And the sun poured down like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses.   From Chelsea Morning (1969)

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31 March 2017

The Willy Wonkas of Acton

Journal

Hot cross bun eggs, frolicsome earls and knickerbocker glory truffles – Prestat, chocolatiers to the Queen are getting ready for Easter. Emma Hagestadt visits a real life chocolate factory One memorable year, Prestat, chocolatiers to the Queen and the late Queen Mother, forgot to deliver the Royal Easter egg.  Following a discreet call from a […]

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28 March 2017

Ronald Firbank orders a snack

Journal

Author of camp novellas such as Valmouth and Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli, Ronald Firbank (1886-1926) was an innovative and hilarious writer who richly deserves rediscovery. His appearance in Bread & Oysters is not due to any prowess as a trencherman but quite the reverse. Obsessed with the slenderness of his waist, he was […]

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8 February 2017

Whale, puffin and fermented herring: the forbidden foods of Scandinavia

Journal

The wilder shores of Nordic cuisine are explored in two books by  Swedish chef/photographer Magnus Nilsson.  Even Christopher Hirst has second thoughts… Published in 2015 and running to 760 pages, the Nordic Cook Book by the Swedish chef/photographer Magnus Nilsson is comprehensive but unwieldy. Possibly because his photographs are a little lost amid the 700 […]

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4 February 2017

Kale – king of the greens

Journal

When lettuce is rationed and broccoli is just a memory, what do you eat instead…. a steaming bowlful of British kale, advises Edan Ambrose In a winter world of post-truth, alternative facts and totalitarianism, the last thing you want is a thinning plateful of iceberg…. How fortunate then, that supplies of salad from Spanish farmers […]

Seville Marmalade
17 January 2017

Alice’s marmalade

Journal

Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next. First, she tried to look down and make out what she was coming to, but it was too dark to see […]

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8 January 2017

Porridge: an exacting test of character

Journal

Cold, wet and miserable…? A bowl of hot oats is the answer says Sally Bayley, but getting it right requires patience On a wintry day there is nothing more comforting than a bowl of porridge. ‘This will soon warm us through’ my grandmother would say as we hovered over the hob. My grandmother taught me […]

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7 January 2017

A clam chowder supper in Nantucket

Journal

Before joining Captain Ahab’s pursuit of the great white whale, the narrator Ishmael and the harpooner Queequeg take lodgings at the Try Pots Inn in Nantucket, where the bellowed menu consists solely of ‘Clam or Cod?’ When the landlady Mrs Hussey takes the former as answer, Ishmael starts to worry. ‘Queequeg, do you think we […]

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21 December 2016

New Year biscuit hygge

Journal

Old Norse  tradition suggests that you should have, at the very least, seven sorts of biscuits for the winter festivities.  That poses no problems for Norwegian baker Rune Wold; he has the  recipes that will add ‘hygge’ to your New Year table… Originally from the squally west coast of Norway, Rune Wold now lives in […]

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15 December 2016

Gin revival – the heart of a good cocktail

Journal

Christopher Hirst visits darkest Clapham to discover the secrets of premium gins… It is appropriate that Thames Distillers, a major player in the recent revival of London gin, is located not in the Victorian garret you might expect, but in a suburb. You will find the company, which makes gins for over 50 clients including […]

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18 November 2016

Stir-up Sunday

Journal

In this darkest of years, it may be that sanity, or at least a sense of hope, could come from a brief return to a now almost defunct Christmas ritual: pudding-making on Stir-up Sunday. The term Stir-up Sunday, or the 25th Sunday after Trinity,  comes from the opening words of the Collect for the day […]

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31 October 2016

Lord Byron laments the dietary insularity of his manservant

Journal

Towards the end of his two-year Grand Tour, Byron explained in a letter to his mother why he had dispatched his manservant Fletcher, a Brexiter avant la letter, back to England. Besides the perpetual lamentations after beef & beer, the stupid, bigoted contempt for every thing foreign, and insurmountable incapacity of acquiring even a few […]

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30 October 2016

Ingredients of an Ottoman thriller

Journal

Even in mid-case, it was impossible to keep Yashim, the flawed Turkish hero at the heart  of his series of detective stories, out of the kitchen, reveals author  Jason Goodwin When I started to write The Janissary Tree, the first of Yashim’s five adventures set in Ottoman Istanbul, I had no idea that Yashim would […]

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22 October 2016

Raising a glass with Papa

Journal

Christopher Hirst explores the life of Ernest Hemingway through his favourite cocktails The world’s greatest writers and artists have inspired a tasty genre of cookbooks. Through anthologies of their favourite dishes, it is possible to join Proust, Monet, Dickens, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso at the table. But only one cultural titan has inspired books about […]

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6 October 2016

Joseph Mitchell’s wonderful obsession

Journal

Christopher Hirst explores the fishy passion of a great American journalist and the book that inspired him… A star writer on the New Yorker in its Forties and Fifties heyday, Joseph Mitchell (1908-1996) is regarded as one of the great names of journalism. His collected writing for the magazine, published under the title Up in […]

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24 September 2016

MFK Fisher eats tripes a la mode de Caen in Dijon

Journal

The small restaurant is gone now but for a long time it served some of the simplest and lustiest meals I have ever eaten… There were always snails, of course, except in very hot weather, and in the cool months oysters out on the sidewalks in kelpy baskets, and both downed by the dozens. There […]

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20 September 2016

Cooking with Sylvia

Journal

Apricots and cream cheese, basil and bay leaves – Sylvia Plath’s shopping-lists were works of art in themselves. Sally Bayley delves into her diaries to find out more… Writing from Cambridge, England, in 1957, the budding future writer Sylvia Plath tells herself to ‘set each scene deep, love it like a faceted jewel.’ Plath’s writing […]

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14 September 2016

From Borough to Barcelona

Journal

Working as a waitress in a Catalunya bar, Monika Linton became passionate about Spanish food. Emma Hagestadt talks to the woman who introduced chorizo, Monte Enebro cheese and tapas to a hungry British public With so many new cook books flooding the market every year, it’s sometimes hard to say which will become keepers on […]

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7 September 2016

Sam Weller’s impersonation of an oyster

Journal

We have said that Mr Weller was engaged in preparing for his journey to London – he was taking sustenance, in fact. On the table before him, stood a pot of ale, a cold round of beef, and a very respectable-looking loaf, to each of which he distributed his favours in turn, with the most […]

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5 September 2016

Preserving the lessons of the past

Journal

‘Use your eyes, ears and nose and appreciate everything that happens…!’ Sage advice from Elizabeth Luard, a food writer who has never been afraid to grab life, or indeed her dinner, by the horns. By Emma Hagestadt Over the course of a long and influential career, Luard has not only penned several classic cook books, […]

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22 August 2016

Lord Byron’s Diet

Journal

Prone to podginess, Lord Byron engaged in periodic diets. Like certain celebrities of the present day, these tended to be ostentatious in their eccentricity. The wealthy banker and minor poet William Rogers (1763-1855) described the dismaying consequence when he asked Byron to join a literary soirée at his house. ‘When we sat down to dinner, […]

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20 August 2016

Dulse delicious

Journal

Seaweed is the latest superfood to hit the health shops, but its use can be traced back to Mesolithic man and the early Irish monks. Xa Milne investigates My love affair with seaweed started a long time ago, prompted by a strange pregnancy craving for brown rice and seaweed, which was satisfied by a local […]

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4 August 2016

Fish from the Rialto

Journal

How Christopher Hirst brought his supper from Venice to London… Probably the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed fish market in the world is at the Rialto in Venice. Dating from before 1100, its dozen large stalls run along the left bank of the Grand Canal. The heart of the market consists of a two-storey […]

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3 August 2016

Where fast food means a pie

Journal

World Gravy Wrestling, Black Pudding Throwing, Pie Eating … there’s nothing Lancashire doesn’t know about food, says Charles Nevin I am not a foodie. This is not a boast so much as a regret: got the stomach for it, but not the palate. No, really: I speak as a man who once asked a French […]

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1 August 2016

Sweet-hearts of the bean field

Journal

What transforms a humdrum vegetable into a favourite ingredient of Mediterranean cuisine? Christopher Hirst rediscovers a seasonal treat… Broad beans are a spring highlight in the Mediterranean. Marcella Hazan, regarded by many as the finest Italian cookery writer, describes them as ‘the most alluring of fresh beans, regrettably limited to a short period in early […]

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20 July 2016

Saffron and rose water

Journal

  On a journey from  the mountains of Tabriz to the cafes of Tehran and the fishing ports of the Persian Gulf, Yasmin Khan revisits the food of her childhood.   She talks to  Emma Hagestadt It all began with pomegranates. As a child, Yasmin Khan would cling to her mother’s knees as she got ready […]

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12 July 2016

Boat cuisine…

Journal

What can you expect for supper on board a small yacht half way across the Atlantic? Strangely, not a lot of fish, reveals intrepid sailor, Tim Halford Ever since standing on Horta harbour in the Azores in the late 1980s, I had had a dream of crossing the Atlantic on a yacht. Now in my […]

Brushing Meats with BBQ Sauce
1 July 2016

Pleased to meat you

Journal

The Texan barbecue has made it to the UK, so dig a fire-pit, chop up the coleslaw and celebrate July 4th with a piece of lusciously marinaded brisket. By Edan Ambrose An April specialising in arctic winds and blizzards of snow which turned the tulips into stiff white lollipops above a sea of mud may […]

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25 June 2016

Duke Ellington’s diet

Journal

From The Hot Bach, a 1944 New Yorker profile of Duke Ellington by Richard O. Boyer Duke, who is always worrying about keeping his weight down, may announce that he intends to have nothing but Shredded Wheat and black tea. . . . Duke’s resolution about not overeating frequently collapses at this point. When it […]

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25 June 2016

Our Manifesto: 10 Proposals for British Food

Journal

For the first issue of Bread & Oysters, Christopher Hirst makes 10 Food Proposals ranging from how to eat Yorkshire pudding to a rousing cheer for butter. Stressing simplicity, seasonality and quality, they form a manifesto for this online magazine. Like Anna Del Conte’s 10 Commandments of Italian Food, recently published in The Guardian, we […]

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4 May 2016

Milking it

Journal

Of the many things that supermarkets have had a hand in – some good, some bad – one of the most significant, in purely sociological terms at least, must be the demise of the milk bottle By Edan Ambrose Hardly anyone now gets their milk delivered to the door. Price wars between the supermarket giants […]

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23 April 2016

Sour views of sourdough

Journal

by Christopher Hirst The sourdough bread now making a tentative appearance in UK supermarkets was rubbished in a recent Guardian taste test. Top place (6.5/10) went to Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference San Francisco¬style sourdough, which was praised for its “bristly, lactic tang” despite “unappealing looks”. It led by a head from Asda’s As Chosen By […]