Food writer and expert on Chinese cuisine Fuchsia Dunlop and rising Bake Off talent Ruby Tandoh were among the winners at the André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards presented last week at the Goring Hotel in London. The prestigious awards showcase the best of contemporary food and drink writing.
Fuchsia Dunlop’s publication Land of Fish and Rice (Bloomsbury) – which looks at the cooking techniques and ingredients of China’s Lower Yangtze region – was awarded the 2016 prize for food writing. The judges compared Dunlop to a modern-day Elizabeth David, mapping new culinary terrain for British audiences in the same way that David popularised Mediterranean cuisine. They praised the depth of Dunlop’s study, brought to life with compelling storytelling, stunning photography and recipes that are authentic, inviting and easy to follow.
Food writer and historian Bee Wilson, this year’s assessor for the food books, said: “Land of Fish and Rice is a simply superb book by the greatest Western food writer about Chinese cuisine. Having explored Szechuan and Hunan in earlier books, Dunlop now introduces us to the balanced temperament of Jiangnan cooking in a book that combines soulful travel writing with gorgeous recipes and food descriptions. But what really makes this book special is the feeling that we are being introduced to the cooking of a region by someone who trulyknows and loves it.”
Appropriately, the timing of this recognition comes in the run up to the Chinese New Year celebrations on Saturday 28 January, but it also marks an increasing interest in food and drink trends in China, following the success of Suzanne Mustacich’s Thirsty Dragon in last year’s André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards.
Young cook and columnist Ruby Tandoh – who impressed BBC viewers with her creative approach to ingredients and flavour in the 2013 series of The Great British Bake Off at the age of 20 – was recognised with a Special Commendation for her second book Flavour: Eat What You Love (Chatto & Windus). The judges commended Tandoh for her fresh approach to food, putting the focus back on taste and enjoyment, rather than presentation, health or fashion, describing Flavour as a 21st century celebration of cooking and eating.
Meanwhile, Canadian author and wine critic John Szabo MS won this year’s prize in the drink category for Volcanic Wines (Jacqui Small), which uses volcanic soil as the overarching theme and link between a wide range of grapes and wine regions. The judges praised Szabo’s balance of science, history and personal detail in an ambitious project exploring geology, volcanism, viticulture and soil sciences together with maps and wine labels. The book’s high production values were also commended alongside Szabo’s accessible and playful prose.