My passion for food
After my wife and son, my biggest passion in life is food. I started cooking for myself when I was 8 or 9. Here’s the recipe I used from the Something to Do book:
A dream fulfilled on the Llyn
Now I have my dream life. I write about food & cooking and work with my family to run a 3 acre smallholding on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales. When we’re not in cloud, our views are truly stunning. That’s not to say it’s idyllic. The land, weather and season’s cycles have a hold over you. Come rain, wind or shine stuff needs doing. And stuff happens that you don’t plan at the most inconvenient times.
We’re trying to manage our holding along Permaculture lines. Permaculture is a way of thinking about, designing and using your environment so it is resilient and sustainable. So we’re developing a forest garden, growing annual and (increasingly more) perennial vegetables. We’re not completely self sufficient, but we’re aiming at ‘optimum sufficiency’ given our land, time and energy resources. We keep chickens and in the past have kept geese, ducks, turkeys and pigs.
My food loves
My food interest is mainly in fresh, seasonal and local food, lovingly prepared. I get a kick out of helping other people how to learn to cook with these ingredients in a way that fits into their lives. It’s one of the reasons I blog and I’m active on twitter. It extends my ability to help hugely. I specially love baking bread and you’ll see plenty of sourdough and yeasted breads on the blog. I’m an omnivore, but you’ll also see plenty of vegetarian and vegan food here too. Good food is good food regardless of whether it’s got meat in it.
London to Llyn life
My path to smallholding & food writing on the Llyn wasn’t clear to me until the mid-1990s and was certainly circuitous.
I was born and brought up in London. We’d lived in the suburbs and in central London and loved the city life. When our son was born we were keen to have space, clean air and to be able to enjoy the outdoors on our doorstep. We made plans in the mid-1990s to make this happen. We finally moved to the Llyn in 1997 and I spent 4 years commuting weekly to London.
In the early 2000s, I swapped the money of corporate life for the time of living from and with the land & with my family. We’re financially much poorer and emotionally & spiritually immensely richer.
When I was 8 or 9, I could not have imagined being where I am now or how I would have made it to this point. But I’m glad I’m here.
After my early food preparation forays, I was lucky to have grown up in the 1970s. Then there were still many independent food traders around: the supermarkets had not yet taken over. And proper food was about to find the UK.
My first part time job was in MacFisheries where I learned to sell & prepare fish, game and green-grocery. I then moved on to working in the non-bread part of Home Bakeries, getting used to 4am starts and the heavy work and camaraderie of a busy bakery. Both of these jobs were a great grounding in basic food appreciation & preparation. As I got older, I fully enjoyed the delights of working in off-licences and pubs. This was at a time when the New World varietal wines were just coming into England and the Campaign for Real Ale was getting going. It was a great time to learn about wine & beer and I seemed to take to it with aplomb.
It was also a time when cooking on TV was coming out of its staid 50s presentation in the UK. My earliest influences were the USA’s Graham Kerr, ‘The Galloping Gourmet’ and the unique Keith Floyd. Both are now sadly not with us. They were true inspirations and advocates of the joie de vivre of cooking with love using fresh ingredients.
My ‘professional’ career has been described as ‘eclectic’. I’ve variously done accounting, law, corporate & public affairs management, government relations, procurement, commercial management, company secretarial duties and executive coaching. I’ve done many of these things both as an employee and as a freelance consultant. It’s not the standard CV of a food writer but there you go: I did an awful lot of cooking, eating & drinking along the way.
Probably not surprisingly, the things I learned doing all those jobs often come in handy in the more ‘business’ orientated aspects of my current life. I was lucky too, as I’ve sampled brilliant food in some great restaurants & hotels over the years as well. For me though, nothing can is more satisfying than home-grown food, cooked with love and eaten with special friends. Which is where I am now. Result!
My current projects
In addition to the smallholding, I’m so happy to have the following projects on the go.
I’m writing the first in a series of books for Permanent Publications called Permaculture Kitchen.
I run a small ad-hoc mini-bakery for locals selling a variety of sourdough breads.
I work with friends in an arts & crafts shop in Criccieth. One day, some of our stuff will be online. Watch this space!