Culinary Anthropologist


  1. The Sun Inn

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    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    “People in Essex wanting good pasta or risotto come here,” says the Sun Inn’s proud Neapolitan chef, Ugo Simonelli. This fifteenth-century coaching inn may look quintessentially English, but the passion for good food and conviviality evoke an Italian trattoria. Owner Piers Baker says: “Sundays are mayhem: children dashing everywhere, parents reading the papers, grandparents nattering, and regulars at the bar laughing at us running around.” …

    smvictoriasplumsshop0001.JPGUgo exudes enthusiasm for Italian cuisine and, encouraged by adventurous diners, has unearthed vanishing dishes. Hare with chocolate and rosemary sauce is a relic of times when boundaries between sweet and savoury were blurred, and cassuola, a Milanese cabbage and pork stew, was traditionally eaten at the end of pig slaughtering season. Pumpkin and mussel soup, raw fish marinated with smoked Maldon salt and pan-fried lamb hearts have their fans too. For more conservative palates, there is grilled salt marsh lamb with roast beetroot, pan-fried calf’s liver with melted onions and sage, and sea bass with saffron potatoes and samphire.

    Between shifts Ugo tends his vegetable patch or experiments with bresaola and prosciutto curing in the cellar. He also teaches in the village school. “We make pasta, pizza and gnocchi, and the kids find they like garlic, parmesan and basil after all. I had them eating pesto by the spoonful!” he laughs …

    The Sun Inn, Essex, England

  2. Strattons


    esb.jpgExcerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday and Anna Colquhoun:

    “Our parents grew up in the war years and taught us not to waste a thing, which is how we’ve run Strattons since the start. High quality and care for the environment can go hand in hand without compromises,” says Vanessa Scott, owner of what is considered to be one of the country’s greenest hotels.

    Indeed, this Palladian-style villa, built around a medieval malting house, exudes style: spectacular artwork; individually designed bedrooms; a candlelit cellar with an extravagant air in pink, black, cream and gold; Floss, the seal-point Siamese, slinking between cowhide-clad armchairs …

    Chef Simon Linacre-Marshall applies his classical French training to ingredients for which the Brecks, the central area of Norfolk, is renowned: griddled asparagus with hollandaise, wild mushroom risotto with beetroot carpaccio and truffle, rabbit and partridge terrine with damson jelly, venison with sour cherry sauce, lavender ice cream with honey and blueberry cheesecake. He enjoys the challenge of keeping it local, seasonal and to a large extent organic, knowing that Vanessa and Les will not tolerate rogue ingredients …

    Strattons Hotel & Restaurant, Norfolk, England

  3. Combe House

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    Excerpt from Eat Slow Britain by Alastair Sawday & Anna Colquhoun:

    combehouse0036.JPGCombe House brims with the heart and soul that owners Ken and Ruth Hunt pour into it. They are proud of their renovation of this grand Elizabethan manor near Honiton in Devon but, most of all, they cherish the relationships they’ve built, with staff, guests, suppliers and the wider community.

    “We used to work in large corporate hotels, where pressure to make profit for shareholders reduced all relationships to mean minimums,” says Ken. “Here, we’ve discovered a wonderful new world of generous relationships and real hospitality. We’re most proud of our extended family of thirty-eight staff, which intertwines the life of the hotel with that of the village.” …

    combehouse0031.JPGTen acres of lawns, ancient cedars, paddocks, orchards and woodland are maintained with minimal use of pesticides and no artificial fertilisers. Compost, leaf mould and horse muck feed four walled Victorian kitchen gardens. There are flageolet and borlotti beans; globe and Jerusalem artichokes; cabbages for all seasons; year-round supplies of shallots and garlic; currants, strawberries and Worcesterberries; dozens of herbs …

    Combe House, Devon, England

  4. Places to stay in Turkey

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    Smfairyinn0001.JPGWe ended up spending about five weeks in Turkey, and we wish it had been a lot longer.  The thing about Turkey is that it’s big.  Really big.  This means that the various regions can be really quite different, with their own distinct characters, geographies and of course cuisines – and that meant that we had to try and get to as many different corners as we could.  

    As the distances are so large, this meant staying in a lot of different places, but quite often not for very long.  Some of them were pretty forgettable, but got us where we wanted to go the next day.  But some of them have been wonderful – beautiful places run by interesting, hospitable and incredibly generous people.  We wish we’d had more time, and we’ll definitely be coming back.  So here’s our list of the places we’re most likely to come back to …


  5. Record-breaking hospitality

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    Smzelihaoven0001.jpgAfter four days of eating our way round Istanbul’s restaurants, markets and street stalls we had intended to fast for a few days.

    But that was before realising how talented, enthusiastic and generous a cook we were about to find in Zeliha ─░rez – a Turkish record-setting medium-distance runner turned cook and host extraordinaire…


  6. Plain to be seen

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    Smtanya0001.JPGThe puszta – the great plain – is very important to Hungarians.  It may not sound very interesting to outsiders: it’s the flattest part of the country, dotted with fairly shabby isolated farms, wells, marshland and perhaps not a great deal else.  But here it means more than that: it holds an important place in the Hungarian imagination and sense of national identity.

    As we found out, though, it’s also a place to hear lively folk music, eat the best bread and pork fat we’ve found so far (and that’s saying a lot), and learn how to play the pig’s bladder while cracking a whip. At least, it is if you’re coordinated enough, which one of us was …


  7. Places to stay in Poland

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    SmRichardMarzena0001.JPGOf course, the best place to stay in Poland is where we spent most of our time – with Richard and Marzena and their two lovely daughters at their home in Zakopane. 

    But if you’re not lucky enough to know them, you could try one of these other places which we would highly recommend.  (Places we would not recommend not included.)  Most fun is to stay in an agrotourism, along with the goats, rabbits, cows and sheep…


  8. Zum Horizont

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    Smzumhorizont0001.jpgHaving spent the morning cycling round the Bodensee in southwestern Germany (well, part of the way – it’s a big lake), and the afternoon crossing Germany on mind-numbingly boring motorways, we arrived at Deggendorf, a small town nestled beneath the foothills of the Bayerisches Wald, a little later than we’d meant to. 

    Every hotel we found was booked up or hideous (unless you’re planning a large corporate conference), or both.  It seemed the whole world had also decided to stop in Deggendorf and look for accommodation due to a nasty accident blocking the mororway.


  9. Traditionally cheesy

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    Smvosges0001.JPGIt’s not easy being an Alsatian cheesemaker.  Yes, you get to live in a beautiful valley in the foothills of the Vosges mountains.  And yes, you get to produce the traditional Munster Fermier, one of France’s tastiest (and smelliest) cheeses.

    But tradition brings rules, regulations and responsibilities as well as tastiness (and smell) – not to mention expense.  And it’s not easy to make a living from cheese alone anyway.

    We stayed with Chantal and Dany Roess at their farm in Soultzeren, where they make Munster (amongst other things), and they told us all about what they do, how they do it, and how they see their role as upholders of the traditions of cheese.


  10. As happy as a cow in Viviers-sur-Artaut

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    Smjumelles0001.jpgThis week, while the US government was recalling the largest ever amount of commercial beef (apparently, cows from the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co so sick they couldn’t walk properly have still been ending up in diners’ Happy Meals), we were playing with Farmer Cornet’s very happy baby cows on his farm in Viviers-sur-Artaut.  

    One of his cows had just given birth to twins, one of whom Michel was bottle-feeding twice a day himself as the mother would only feed one.  (Nature can be cruel too, let’s not forget.)  The twins were having some trouble using their legs, but then they were only 5 days old.  All their older relatives were walking around happy as can be, probably because Michel gives care and attention to each and every one.