JANUARY is the season of abstinence, when people are resolved to lose weight and become healthier. This is doubtless why Ebury Press chose the first week of the year to promote the good works of Leslie Kenton, the fairy godmother of health and beauty.

It is 10 years since the first publication of Raw Energy, the book about the nutritional benefits of eating mostly uncooked foods, which she co-wrote with her daughter, Susannah. It has just been reissued as a 'Leslie Kenton Classic' (at pounds 6.99). Now Ms Kenton, who is 52 years old and lives in Virginia Woolf's old house on the Pembrokeshire coast, is investigating the effects of exercise on her body by working out strenuously for four hours a day and is revising another Kenton Classic, Ageless Ageing, to be reissued next year.

In fact, Leslie Kenton looks so sickeningly healthy that even the Gastropod, no great fan of the alfalfa sprout and the mung bean, is forced to concede that she might be on to something. Her latest book, one of the 'Kenton's Dynamic Health' series, is called Lean Revolution (Ebury Press, pounds 5.99), and teaches those who wish to lose weight permanently to ignore faddy diets and stick to a few firm dietary principles. If you are seriously determined to change your eating habits this year, this is quite probably the place to start.

THE motto of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust is Gustibus mens dat incrementum ('knowledge enhances sensory perception'); its aim is to slake our thirst for oenological enlightenment. The trust organises and administrates a series of courses which lead to professional qualifications in the world of wine.

Last week, at a splendid reception at Vintners' Hall in the City of London, the trust launched a book which is bound to become a bible of the wine trade. Ostensibly a textbook to cover the syllabus of the Trust's Higher Certificate, Exploring Wines & Spirits ( pounds 19.75) 'sets out crisply and clearly, but always with humour and humanity, the ground rules by which a modern wine merchant must operate', says Hugh Johnson in his introduction. It is a companion volume to Introducing Wines and Spirits and Associated Beverages, which the Gastropod thinks is a wonderful read, if rather dry. The Wine & Spirit Education Trust is on 071-236 3551.

THE Gastropod is grateful to Anne Prentice of Penrith for sending a clipping from the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald on the Cumberland Stew controversy. A report in the previous week's issue, stating that the traditional stew had been a big hit with local children during National School Meals Fortnight (sick), had raised eyebrows all round. The paper consulted the WI, which could find no mention of such a stew, concluding that older Cumbrians might know the dish, so popular in school canteens, by the rather less refined name of 'meat and tatie slither'.