The Lowdown: The British Library’s Food Season

By Georgia Bronte contact

- Last updated on GMT

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The British Library is encouraging bookworms to “unleash your inner gourmet and intellectual hunger” for its Food Season this month.

Come again?
Basically, the British Library is hosting a series of talks and events interlinking food and literature.

So…will there be any food there?
Not the physical kind, but the events are being curated by food historian and British Library curator Polly Russell. A line-up of talks from Michelin-starred chefs, food campaigners, restaurateurs and food makers is scheduled, so there might not be anything to fill you up, but there should be something to satiate all intellectual appetites.

What kind of talks can be expected?
Well, for those interested in food policy, Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of food and farming alliance Sustain, will be talking about health and sustainability in the industry for a post-Brexit Britain. Dalmeny’s most recent project was about providing legal foundations to ensure that everyone can eat well and not experience hunger. She will be joined by supply chain expert Felicity Lawrence and Hungry City architect Carolyn Steel.

Sounds a little heavy for me…
If you’d prefer to keep it light, then the ‘(Not So) Fictional Food’ session might be more fitting. Two cookbook authors who take fictional food from page to pen will be reflecting on the challenges they have faced trying to bring food from novels into the real world. Pen Vogler is a food historian and author of Dinner with Dickens and Dinner with Mr Darcy. She writes and reviews food history for the press, and recreates recipes for the past for TV.

How does she do that?
In her most recent book, Dinner with Dickens, she recreates recipes from Dickens books as well as recipes the author used to eat himself. She will be joined by Kate Young, author of The Little Library Cookbook, which teaches readers how to recreate well-loved dishes from famous novels.

Like what?
Paddington Bear's marmalade, pseudonymous Italian novelist Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan pizza, Peter Pan’s currant buns, Narnia-style turkish delight and Scrooge’s roast goose.

Interesting. Anything a bit more grounded in reality going on?
Loads. Top Chinese cooks Fuchsia Dunlop and Ching He Huang will be talking about the two different styles of Chinese cooking practices and food. Despite both cooking Chinese cuisine, Dunlop takes a traditional approach, and traces cooking practices back to their roots to find the continuities in Chinese kitchens today and in the past. He Huang, on the other hand, blends traditional with contemporary innovation, focusing more on health.

I could really go for a Chinese…What else is going on?
A stellar line-up on 24 April features Chez Panisse chef and cookbook author Samin Nosrat, alongside Quo Vadis chef proprietor Jeremy Lee and revered food writer Fay Maschler. They will be talking about different ways of looking at and thinking about food, balancing its component parts. According to Nosrat, these are salt; fat; acid; and heat.
Sounds more up my street. I still wish there was some food, though…
You know what goes better with books than food?

Wine. The ‘Book and a Bottle’ event ticket gets you three wine samples, and a session with White Houses author Amy Bloom to find the perfect match to her book. The wines have all been shortlisted by Corney & Barrow, and are available to buy on the night, alongside more of Bloom’s books.

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