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place in fiction with Jonathan Grimwood (hosted by an award- winning restaurant reviewer, John Walsh, on 3 March), it seems food has become a natural partner to the written word. “I think people love the idea, as I did, that you can be paid for


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stuffing your face,” says Matthew Fort from his Cotswold home. “I actually worked in advertising for 20 years before I became a food writer, and it never occurred to me that you could possibly earn a living doing anything quite so enjoyable.” For those that need to be introduced, Matthew was food


editor of The Guardian for 15 years, and he’s published three cookery books and has appeared on numerous TV series, most recently as long-time judge on The Great British Menu alongside (fellow adopted Cotswoldian and writer) Prue Leith and restaurateur Oliver Peyton. He’s also co-founder of Mr Trotter’s Great British Pork Crackling with fellow foodie Tom Parker Bowles. In other words, he’s a big deal – and will be appearing at several events during the festival, including a literary lunch at Allium Brasserie on 5 March with The Oldie magazine publisher James Pembroke. Matthew will be speaking about his love for Italy and its cuisine. “I went to Italy for the first time when I was 11 – it was one of my first times abroad – and my father used to take us up to a café in the square of the town where we were staying on the Adriatic coast,” he tells me. “One evening they were making ice cream, and I remember the delight of trying freshly made banana ice cream, which tasted more of banana than even bananas had ever tasted before. I thought that it was magical, and any country that could put so much love into making ice cream must be worth investigating. And every time I have gone back I have always found more and more to investigate. It’s also a very vigorous food culture: it is extremely regional, has great diversity, and people fight hard to preserve it. It’s profoundly conservative and conformist – what all Italians want to eat is what their mother cooked for them, only better.” Indeed Matthew’s last two books, Eating up Italy and Sweet


Honey, Bitter Lemons saw Matthew travel around the country on a Vespa, eating and drinking his way through the regions. As well as the Literary Lunch, he’ll be talking about his next book, A Summer in the Islands, at the Guildhall at 8pm on 5 March. It’s a project he financed the research for via crowdfunding. “The reason I went down the crowdfunding route was quite


simple,” he says. “I couldn’t find a publisher prepared to offer me the money to go off on a summer of gross indulgence, a voyage of exploration and discovery.” Matthew hopes to leave for his trip in May and not return


until October. “It seemed to me that we know Sicily, we know Sardinia, but there are over 50 other Italian islands that we know very little about. I’d like to know more. I used to go to


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he front cover of this year’s The Independent Bath Literature Festival brochure is emblazoned with a picture of candy floss. And why? Well, for artistic director Viv Groskop, being handled an unexpectedly large stick of the stuff as a child epitomises the feeling of bliss, the theme of 2014’s festival. And this year, for the first time, the Lit Fest has a large foodie vein – whether it be a workshop on how to be a better food writer with Metro restaurant critic Andy Lynes (7 March), or another charting food’s


Matthew likes his detective stories almost as much as he likes his pork scratchings (and that’s a lot)


the Aeolian Islands back in my twenties –and one called Salina, in particular. I fell in love with them, and found them utterly beautiful. I haven’t been back for 30 years, so it will be very interesting to see what has changed, what hasn’t changed, how they’ve withstood the onslaught of tourism. What is


extraordinary about these islands is that most of them are poor but they are all occupied and inhabited. How do people manage to survive here? What are the conditions? It’s fascinating.” If someone such as Matthew has to fund his own books, it


begs the question – is, as American food writer Amanda Hesser declared a few years ago, food writing dead? “I think it’s become extremely difficult, but I wouldn’t


say it’s the end of food writing,” offers Matthew in his calm and collected manner. “You might say that we’ve enjoyed an extraordinary explosion in food writing on the internet, but not that much of it is very good, which is the problem. Anybody can be a food writer [on the internet] and there is no editorial control over quality. I think the number of people who can make a reasonable living from food writing is much, much smaller – but, of course, the number of people who wish to do so gets ever greater. “Food writing should be like the spectrum of a rainbow or,


rather more, like a chocolate box – some people like hard centres, some people like soft centres, some people like marzipan, some people like toffee. I think there should be something for everyone, and that you shouldn’t be prescriptive about it. Whatever it is, though, needs to be good and needs to take into account the very simple question – why should anybody want to read this? What you want is variety in deliciousness.”


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ne particularly tasty event to also take place on a busy 5 March, and which Matthew will host, is a talk with Guild of Food Writers award-winner Claudia Roden from 4.30pm at the Guildhall. Born in Egypt in the ’30s, Claudia has pioneered our education in Middle Eastern cuisine in the UK: any food lover who appreciates beautiful colours, inspiring aromatics and mouth-


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