A book charting the challenges of rural living, an examination on what the food we buy and eat says about us, and a humourous look at middle-class wine drinking were among the winners at the annual André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards.
The awards, hosted by novelist Julian Barnes and cookery writer Annie Bell last night (31st March) at the Goring Hotel in London, showcase the best in contemporary food and drink writing.
Writer and photographer Mark Diacono won the food book prize for A Year at Otter Farm (Bloomsbury), which charts the seasonal challenges and triumphs of rural living.
Bell, this year’s assessor for the food books, said: “A Year at Otter Farm centres on the story of how Mark Diacono set out to plant the country’s first climate change farm, and if this isn’t enough of an achievement, his recipes are skilfully crafted, real, accessible and down-to-earth, but equally very accomplished. The photographs are beautiful, and Mark writes like an angel. But it’s the way these elements are in complete harmony with each other that makes this book so outstanding.”
Diacono said: “It’s astonishing to win this award, especially considering the quality of previous winners – from Nigel Slater to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It’s such a great honour and I’m really bowled over. It’s still sinking in.”
The drink category was won by wine writer Wink Lorch for Jura Wine (Wine Travel Media), an insider’s guide to the Jura wine region, with local food and travel tips.
Both Diacono and Lorch win £2,000 each.
Philosopher Julian Baggini’s The Virtues of the Table (Granta), which looks at how we eat, farm and shop for food and what these choices say about us, was recognised with a special commendation.
Bell said the book was “inspired” and a “great rarity” and “as scientific as it is artistic”.
Sediment (John Blake Publishing) by Paul Keers and Charles Jennings won the John Avery award in recognition of its humorous and wry look at the social, financial, personal and marital issues surrounding middle-class wine drinking.
Barnes said: “It’s the funniest wine-book I’ve read in a long time.
“Not just laugh-aloud funny but snortingly, choke-on-your-cornflakes funny – up there with Kingsley Amis and Jay McInerney.”