Food and Drink: Gastropod

THE GREAT and the good and the Gastropod gathered at Guildhall in the City of London to toast the foundation of the Jane Grigson Library with vintage Cava and an extraordinary selection of canapes provided by some of the top caterers in town. The Nosh Brothers, who dress like the Blues Brothers, offered mini Yorkshire puddings stuffed with roast beef, while the inescapable Antony Worrall-Thompson handed out such morsels as tuna carpaccio with snail's eggs, poppy seed pancakes with courgettes and Parmesan, and, most memorably, 'baked beans' and foie gras.

It was Jane Grigson's wish that her vast collection of books be used as the basis for a specialist food reference library, and Guildhall, which already houses the Andre Simon Collection and that of the Worshipful Company of Cooks, seemed the obvious choice. It will take at least a year to catalogue the collection fully, and in the meantime it keeps on growing. The ultimate aim is to build a comprehensive library of every worthwhile cookbook ever printed. It seems as though the acceptance of the more esoteric titles from one's shelves into the Jane Grigson Library will soon become a posthumous status symbol.

ASDA is intent on further testing the constraints of the Sunday trading laws tomorrow by selling wine by the case all day, from 9am to 6pm, at 105 superstores in England and Wales. According to Ian McLeod, Asda's trading controller, 'We wanted to give our customers the opportunity to purchase wine in bulk at a discounted price while they are doing their Christmas family shopping.'

As the law stands, retailers are not allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays after 3pm, but if wine is sold in a minimum quantity of nine litres (that is, a case of 12 75cl bottles), they are deemed to be wholesalers and are thus exempt.

As a further incentive, Asda is offering full cases of 12 bottles for the price of 10 on a selection of a dozen of their most popular lines, including their own label Claret at pounds 29.90 and Australian Chardonnay at pounds 39.90; Hungarian Cabernet Sauvignon is pounds 25.90 and Jacob's Creek Dry Red is pounds 36.90. Cases cannot be mixed.

PARENTS seeking an educational stocking filler for children aged five and upwards have just enough time to send off to Iceland Frozen Foods for its Nutritional Card Game. 'It's Dinner Time]' aims to teach the little darlings to create a balanced meal using five colour-coded cards, each with a value of 1 to 4, depending on how good the food is. The winner is the first player to accumulate a card of each colour totalling 12 points or less. They then show their hand and shout, 'It's dinner time]'

The Gastropod found the game less complicated than it sounds, but wasn't convinced that kids would easily appreciate that a red burger card is worth four points because burgers are bad while a green mixed vegetables card is worth only one because it's terribly good.

However, I am assured that trials among real schoolchildren proved the game does improve their awareness of what constitutes a healthy meal, if not necessarily a tasty one. The game is not available in the shops, but costs pounds 1.50 including postage from Iceland Frozen Foods, Honeypot Lane, Stanmore, Middlesex HA7 1LE. Mark the envelope 'Nutritional Game' to ensure delivery by return post.

NOW that the end of the year is nigh, nominations are being taken for the Glenfiddich Awards for writing about food and drink. This year's judges include Martyn Goff, OBE, who, as chairman of the Book Trust, administers the Booker Prize; Matthew Fort of the Guardian; Claudia Roden and the ebullient Bill Baker of Reid Wines, who was recently profiled in Jancis Robinson's Vintner's Tales on BBC 2. A cynic might dismiss the awards ceremony, which takes place in April, as an annual backslapathon in which a clique of top writers pass parcels of pounds 800 and a case of Scotch between themselves.

Nominations are normally received from writers themselves, their editors, or publishers. But in an effort to broaden the competition and make the judges work harder this year, Conal Walsh, the organiser, would welcome nominations from the general public, who can obtain official entry forms by calling his office on 071-405 8638, or writing to 10 Stukeley Street, London WC2B 5LQ.

Modesty prohibits a mere mollusc from proposing itself and, looking at the form, the Gastropod is in any case having trouble working out to which category this column belongs. But the Special Award seems appropriately non-specific and, should I emerge victorious, I promise to share the whisky with my nominees.

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