Looking for some new cooking inspiration or want to learn more about a niche food subject? The just-announced shortlist for the prestigious annual André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards will surely whet your appetite for new creative adventures in the kitchen. The panel was guided by the help and advice of this year’s independent assessors, food writer and historian Bee Wilson and award-winning food and wine writer Fiona Beckett.
The shortlist showcasing the best of contemporary food and drink writing was selected from a record-breaking 200 submissions, and features established food and drink figures, including Felicity Cloake and Fuchsia Dunlop, alongside first-time author chef Gill Meller – the only man on this year’s female-dominated food book shortlist.
The diverse publications range from Gather – a collection of seasonal recipes inspired by the landscape – to Pride and Pudding, a culinary history of the British pudding. In the spotlight this year there are cuisines from India (Fresh India), China (Land of Fish and Rice) and Nigeria (Longthroat Memoirs), alongside wine from California (American Rhône) and Tuscany (Chianti Classico). Not only has there been a broader range of cuisines celebrated in this year’s submissions, but also an increase in the countries from which the books were submitted, spanning from the United States to Indonesia.
Both Ruby Tandoh’s Flavour: Eat What You Love and Felicity Cloake’s A-Z of Eating take a modern approach to flavour, while reference book The Oxford Companion to Cheese covers everything from Vacherin Mont d’Or to military rations.
This year’s drink submissions include books which explore a single ingredient, such as Pete Brown’s focus on apples in The Apple Orchard and Tristan Stephenson’s look into at the history and development of gin in The Curious Bartender’s Gin Palace. John Szabo’s Volcanic Wines is believed to be the first book to use a soil type as the overarching theme in a wine book.
Nicholas Lander, Chair, André Simon Memorial Fund comments: “The food and drink book industry has sold £60 million worth of books in the UK so far this year and 2016 is likely to be the biggest to date in UK food and drink history, counteracting completely the predictions that the internet would see the demise of this genre. While other areas of publishing are shrinking, food and drink book sales are going from strength to strength this was also reflected in the highly impressive production values. This is a year in which I am particularly proud to have been Chairman. These are great books that reveal the passion of so many of our writers.”
The shortlisted books for the 2016 prize in the food category are:
The A-Z of Eating by Felicity Cloake (Fig Tree)
Flavour: Eat What You Love by Ruby Tandoh (Chatto & Windus)
Fresh India by Meera Sodha (Fig Tree)
Gather by Gill Meller (Quadrille)
Land of Fish and Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop (Bloomsbury)
Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Taste Buds by Yemisi Aribisala (Cassava Republic)
The Oxford Companion to Cheese edited by Catherine Donnelly (OUP)
Pride and Pudding by Regula Ysewijn (Murdoch Books)
The shortlisted books for the 2015 prize in the drink category are:
American Rhône by Patrick J Comiskey (UCP)
The Apple Orchard by Pete Brown (Particular Books)
Chianti Classico by Bill Nesto and Frances Di Savino (UCP)
The Curious Bartender’s Gin Palace by Tristan Stephenson (Ryland Peters & Small)
Volcanic Wines by John Szabo MS (Jacqui Small)
If I had to choose one to read right now? Hmm...I'm likely to go with something that enlightens me about a culture in a country I've never visited - traditions around food tell you just about everything you need to know about a place and its people - and from this list we can we can take a trip to India, China or Nigeria. I'd like to bring some of their local flavour back to my own kitchen.
Today's DesignSkool lesson: We learned that food and drink writing, in the tangible form of the published book, is an object so desirable that we're still willing to pay for it. As popular as the free and instantly accessible foodie blogs and columns are today - and there are some fantastic ones out there - there still exists a loyalty to the space-occupying, hundred+ pages long, photo rich, printed form. People who really love food and appreciate cooking and concocting as an art form that comes with endless creative challenges and rewards, value having something we can display in our homes and hold in our hands, that really delves into the subject, teaches us something new and takes us to some other wonderful place through the writers's unique narrative. This is a great thing as it means these brilliant writers have a supported platform that allows them to bring us new inspirations every year.