Food & Gastronomy: Media and Writing

The How and Why of Cooking, Eating and Drinking

Idiots’ Guide to Vegetables

Posted on May 5, 2017

Commissioned by the Guardian a while ago, but then spiked on the basis that it was too "sciencey" [sic]. I wonder what else they expected from a scientist? At any rate, here is my guide to the quirkier side of vegetables (from fresh and juicy to saggy and sorry) for a more discriminating readership. Enjoy! A rough guide to vegetables The vegetables in your kitchen are alive and breathing. Plucked from your garden or bought from a shop, ...

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125. The Chinese tea ceremony

Posted on January 30, 2017

The Chinese New Year, which began this year on January 28th, is a big deal in Sydney, which has a large and vibrant Chinese community, some of whose families go back to the gold rush days of the 1850s. As part of the celebrations, the Art Gallery of New South Wales hosted a demonstration of the traditional Chinese tea ceremony. The ceremony predates its better-known Japanese cousin, and goes back to the 9th century. By pure chance, I was in ...

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Food books for food enthusiasts

Posted on November 10, 2016

Do you have a passion for food and cooking? Do you want access and guidance on the best in culinary literature? Former molecular biologist Matt Cockerill has an answer, in the form of a new web-based project called 1000 Cookbooks ( As a start, leading chefs, food writers and other food professionals were asked to list their own 10 favourite cookbooks (ones that actually contain recipes and other practical material). I was ...

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Letter to “Times,” Thursday June 16 (2016), re food and Brexit.

Posted on June 16, 2016

At Theodore Zeldin's suggestion, supported and promoted by Paul Levy, here is a letter that I and 59 others signed, with food-related reasons for Britain to stay firmly in the EU. Sir, As people engaged in the food world, concerned about the cultural, nutritional and environmental effects of our food supply, and especially the quality of our diet, we urge Britons to vote to stay in the EU. Who would want this country to return to the time ...

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Brain cutlets, anyone?

In celebration of the “offal” theme at the 2016 Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, here is the wonderful brain cutlet story from Lawrence Durrell’s Prospero’s Cell, a semi-fictional diary of his time on Corfu. The Count is “Count D” (probably an invented character, represented as a recluse who has befriended Durrell and his small group). “Theodore” is the very real and erudite Dr Theodore Stephanides, whom many will recognize ...

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Food and Desire

Posted on February 5, 2016

Here are the talk notes and accompanying Powerpoint Slides for the keynote talk that I gave on "Food and Desire" at the second Biennial Dublin Gastronomy Symposium (DGS) that (3-4 June 2014, Dublin Institute of Technology). It was a wonderful meeting, full of food and fun, and highly recommended for any foodie at any level. POWERPOINT SLIDES Dublin 2014 TALK NOTES “Food and Desire”. That’s our theme for this symposium, but how ...

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101. Tacit knowledge and the replication of results.

One thing that seldom gets talked about in the world of science is the notion of tacit knowledge – that is, know-how that is only, and sometimes can only, be passed on through direct experience. A recent example was described in the journal Nature (Vol. 514, pp. 139 – 140 (2014)). It concerned measurements of the quality of sapphire, now used to make laser mirrors. Russian scientists were claiming very high precision that Western scientists ...

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The true place of science in gastronomy

Posted on July 6, 2015

My contribution to a panel discussion at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, Sunday July 5th, 2015. We don’t need to understand science to enjoy our food, but quite often we need science to provide us with food that we can enjoy, and understanding the science can add to that enjoyment. When it comes to enjoying it in the gastronomic sense, a good starting point is early nineteenth-century Paris. This was when Charles Fourier ...

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How To Eat Your Mummy

Posted on June 29, 2015

I am a regular speaker at the annual Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, where famous food writers, food historians, and other food enthusiasts share their ideas and experiences in the cloistered dignity of St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. Well, it would be cloistered if it was one of the older colleges, but St. Catz is actually a modern college, and lacks such picturesque features. Dignity was also notably lacking from its main lecture hall ...

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Food Museums: An Eclectic List

Posted on May 22, 2015

I love museums. They link our past, present and future, reminding us of what was, helping us to understand what is, and providing a foundation for what is to come. Museums take many forms, and few people know about one of those forms - the food museum. So to help you on your way, here is an eclectic list of the world's food museums (see also the symposium blog for the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, where I maintain and update the ...

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