A delicious way to earn a living

Published on Foodepedia on 22nd August 2010:

The late Michael Bateman, a prolific writer and food enthusiast, was probably the father of modern food journalism. When he started out in the 50s, it was considered a topic of little worth, but a topic he nevertheless continued to champion throughout his life. ‘A delicious way to earn a living’ is a collection of his food writings from early on in his career to when he became Food Editor at The Independent on Sunday.

Inside this food journalist’s bible, you can find column musings, serious investigations and recipes, all interwoven with Bateman’s own food illustrations. How could any food journalist be taken seriously without having first read at least a portion of this book? Perhaps what is most surprising, for those strangers to Bateman, is the range of topics it covers. It’s possible to find everything from ethical eating to a guide to prison food, offering a very refreshing change for those who thought food writing was just recipes and reviews. This is certainly an encompassing selection from a man who took lengths to exhaust the topic of food via a multitude of angles.

The book reads like a collection of clippings from his long career, but without dates or publication details, it also feels like a collection of short stories. There are no chapters, just portion after portion of food exaltation. For anyone with a passion for food, this book really is a must. Whether you’re a novice or a connoisseur, the book will educate as well as entertain. What’s more, the book is an easy read and gives a fabulous insight into how food and food writing in Britain has changed between the 50s and 80s. It is also probably one of few books for which the foreword is also the author’s obituary. A regrettable fact indeed.

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What’s for dinner? – Romilla Arber

Published on Foodepedia on 14th August 2010:

“What’s for dinner?” That’s a question asked approximately two minutes after the confirmation of lunch on the table in my house. The answer to that question isn’t a light one. At least not for Romilla Arber who tried to address it with her 656 page début, ‘what’s for dinner’.

On first look, the book has everything – seasonal recipes, weekly shopping lists, helpful hints and a handy bookmark, complete with conversion tables. With a book of this scale, would you ever need any other cookbook? And it’s not just a simple cookbook either. The profits from sales goes towards funding Arber’s charity, the Food Education Trust, which aims to teach children and adults basic cooking skills as well as the benefits of healthy eating. Not a bad concept.

But upon closer inspection, it’s hard not to question the contents of the book. It’s certainly surprising, given the charity the book supports, that oddly enough there’s no explanation of any basic cooking skills.

As a time-saving meal planning bible for the family, it should definitely be applauded. For starters, there are just so many recipes to choose from. Arber has also recognised that no family meal would be complete without puds and treats so each week there is a recipe, or two, for a little something sweet.

With the book divided into months, albeit nominally, it’s easy to stay seasonal without worrying about what may or may not be on the shelves. The weekly shopping lists will certainly come in handy for anyone too busy to work out what they need to buy from week to week. That said, if you don’t have a family of six like Arber, you will still need to scale the recipes, and therefore the shopping list accordingly.

This book is one woman’s recipe binder, a book by a home cook, for the home cook.

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