Thursday, 12 April 2012

William Sitwell’s Book A History of Food in 100 Recipes - Interview

I predict that within six months no self respecting foodies bookshelf will be without William Sitwell’s Book A History of Food in 100 Recipes sitting in a prominent position on their book shelf  .. having been well thumbed ..  Why?  Because it is fabulous, witty, informative, unique and incredibly readable as well as being a really beautiful object in it’s own right.

Descended  from a long line of writers William is acknowledged as one of the UK’s best food writers and as the editor of Waitrose Kitchen, there is not much he doesn’t know about the British food scene. 

He is A list. 

He is also local and in Northamptonshire he is known as a genuinely approachable chap. I’ve heard first hand about the invlauable support and advice William gave to village entrepreneurs as they set up a local food market and that William helped the school recently to get their recipe book project off the ground. I’ve been out and about on numerous occasions as William has been there supporting his local food scene and a neighbour I was chatting with just last week enthused that “William is  just so passionate about local food  he is always going out of his way to help wherever possible .. he is very much  be part of our community” she said adding “we are so proud of him!”

I think it is fair to say that he is one of our local food hero’s. So I was really truly delighted when I was sent a review copy of the book by the publishers, Harper Collins and William asked if I would like to catch up with him at home for the BBC Kitchen Garden Show.

Isobel deciding she was peckish halfway through our interview!

From the moment I got my copy of The History of Food in 100 Recipes I couldn’t put it down.  I sat up in bed reading until my eyeballs could take no more, making notes in the margin.  From bread making in ancient Egypt, cheesecakes in ancient Greece all the way to to the invention of the Kenwood chef and Nigella’s cupcakes each chapter is a story in it’s own right.  I had so many questions and I was very much looking forward to catching up with William to ask about how it all came together.

Of course things never go according to plan and my childcare arrangements fell through at the last minute.  I was so disappointed  ..  I reluctantly  spoke to William expecting to have to rearrange.. but he laughed and said bring the children  along .. really it was ok .. even the dog.

I wondered if he had any idea of the utter chaos he was inviting in?  On the way over I pulled over and give my three children and the poor dog a really stern talking to.  They had better be on the VERY best behaviour I said. Or else.

As it was the children fitted straight in.  William's gorgeous children are the same age as mine and before we knew it the girls were tacking up the pony and off they all went to play. 

It turned out to be one of the most interesting interviews I have ever done  ….  if you listen to the Interviews below you will smile  (- it is unedited on Audio boo). Between chickens, phone calls, the dogs, my daughter ringing the church bell, ponies, burning tomatoes in the aga, and the house being decorated we did actually get in a really great conversation about this brilliant book, and the radio show is on this Sunday at 10am on BBC radio Northampton.

Certainly the challenges of interviewing William alongside five children under the age of 10 and two rowdy dogs means that I can confirm that William is really everything a food hero should be. Taking life in his stride William is a genuine champion of local, British and seasonal food, is passionate about his community: he is also hard working dad who was genuinely devastated to burn his tomatoes he forgot about and took the time to feed my hungry five year old halfway through the interview and has written a brilliantly different recipe book. 

This History of Food in 100 Recipes is a seriously lovely looking book, meticulously researched, full of the most interesting stories about passionate foodies . Whilst I'll admit that I have always found history to be a somewhat dry and dusty subject William brings it all to life.  It is colorful, delicious, funny in places, easy to read and yet there is serious depth to it .. I love it .. so I’ll say just one last thing.  It really is absolutely the best book I’ve read in years  so if you only buy one recipe book this year make it this one and keep it at the front of your bookcase.
The original Books William bought at the auction at Sothebys

The first copy!


  1. It sounds like a super book, and will be on my bookshelf very soon. What a great interview and photographs.

  2. I am off out to source a copy right now. What a great time you must have had interviewing William. It's soo nice when you meet genuine people. Thank you for a really good post.

  3. I can't wait to get my copy, especially after having a sneak preview!


  4. Lovely interview - off to have a good browse through this book on Amazon right now.

  5. So good topic really i like any post talking about Ancient Egypt but i want to say thing to u Ancient Egypt not that only ... you can see in Ancient Egypt Ancient Egyptian Gods and more , you shall search in Google and Wikipedia about that .... thanks a gain ,,,


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