Food & Drink: Gastropod

AT LAST week's Glenfiddich Awards (at which, the Gastropod is delighted to repeat, his colleagues were suitably rewarded - Emily Green, Food Writer of the Year; Joanna Blythman, shortlisted; and Sophie Grigson shortlisted for Cookery Writer), there was much hilarity when it emerged that Margaret Shaida, author of the Food Book of the Year, was debarred from the Guild of Food Writers because she had no reputation as a food writer. Inexperience had also made it difficult for Mrs Shaida to find a publisher. The Legendary Cuisine of Persia (Lieuse Publications, pounds 19) is the only self-published book ever to have been shortlisted for the award.

Margaret Shaida is married to an Iranian journalist and lived in Tehran for 25 years until after the revolution of 1979, when she objected to having to wear a veil, and returned with her family to her native Henley-on-Thames. The Legendary Cuisine of Persia was conceived as a history book, but then she thought it silly for a food book to have no recipes and embarked on the lengthy task of testing and writing up recipes that are models of clarity.

Mrs Shaida was much encouraged by Alan Davidson, the former British ambassador to Laos, who carried off the 1993 Glenfiddich Trophy. Mr Davidson is celebrated for his books about seafood and, as the guiding light of the Oxford Food Symposium, is probably the foodies' leading intellectual. On receiving his prize, he modestly ascribed his achievements to having a tidy mind and a mania for making lists.

ALL NEXT week (until 2 May) Safeway is inviting shoppers to 'Try Our Brand'. When purchasing any of eight branded groceries, customers will be given a sample of Safeway's own- label equivalent. For instance, buy a packet of Phileas Fogg Tortilla Chips and get a free packet of Safeway Chilli Tortilla Chips. The Gastropod intends to stock up on olive oil, coffee and chocolate digestives, but will resist the temptation to try oven chips, processed cheese slices or Safeway Meadow Spread.

VISITORS to Covent Garden will be familiar with the mural adorning the side of Maxwell's hamburgeria in Russell Street and its passionate entreaty to 'help us stop the Royal Opera House demolishing these Georgian buildings and replacing them with an office block'. The Royal Opera owns the freehold to the restaurant premises and plans to redevelop it, eventually, but in the meantime a truce has been struck. The hatchet was buried last Tuesday with a party for the opera's thousand-odd employees at the new Maxwell's, located within the ROH itself.

As the ROH is a Grade I-listed building, the new restaurant conforms to stringent controls and has had pounds 2m spent on it, including pounds 100,000 in soundproofing to prevent opera lovers being upset by the Rolling Stones, and hamburger eaters being put off by wailing divas. It seems as if Maxwell's owner, Brian Stein, has had the last laugh. Since the Royal Opera can't afford to do anything with the site for at least four years, Mr Stein will open an Italian diner there within the month.

THE GASTROPOD pays little attention to the vagaries of fashion but was struck by a news item concerning a chap in the rag trade who bought a container load of platform shoes and despaired of ever getting rid of them until his teenage son informed him that the Seventies are back in style. It appears that something similar has happened at Ryvita, the makers of the nation's number one crispbread.

In the Seventies Ryvita ran an advertising campaign featuring skinny models who were soldiers in 'The Inch War', wearing belts like tape measures with their vital statistics framed by the buckle. Times change, Ryvita's marketing strategy moved on and the belts were consigned to the oblivion of a warehouse in Dorset. Until now, that is.

Readers who would like to re-enlist in the Inch War and receive a free, authentic Seventies tape measure belt can write to: Ryvita Inch War/Gastropod offer, PO Box 21, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 2SS, while stocks last. Those with a waist measuring more than 34in need not apply.

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