It's stll Fairtrade Fortnight. That's the way with fortnights – they go on for two weeks, and this one lasts until next Sunday.
It's still Fairtrade Fortnight. That's the way with fortnights – they go on for two weeks, and this one lasts until next Sunday. But fair trade ought to be all year long, and the promotion is prompting the arrival of more and more types of food and drink that give the people who grow the commodities a decent price and long-term security. As part of its campaign for fairer trading and to raise money as well as awareness, Action Aid, the overseas development charity – and leading campaigner against multinationals winning patents on food crops in developing countries – is masterminding a nationwide 24-hour coffee break this Friday. To find out more about fair trade and events – branches of the Co-operative Bank, for instance, in Bolton, Manchester and Newcastle, are holding coffee sessions all day on Friday – go to www.actionaid.org. To organise a fund-raising event call 020-7561 7561 to be sent a pack with background about fair trade, a list of fairly traded ingredients to buy, samples of Fairtrade tea and coffee, and suggestions for how to get a fund-raising, coffee-drinking event off the ground. Or should that be grounds?
There is an old saw that you can often eat better (chez Truffler may be an exception) and always more cheaply at home than you can in a restaurant. It was endorsed at the final of the 11th Indian Chef of the Year competition recently held in Edinburgh. The winner is Sunil Menon of Leigh in Lancashire, a development chef at Patak's, the people who make curry sauces. Reach for one of these and you now know an award-winning chef will have had a hand in cooking your dinner. Menon only came to Britain just over a year ago, from the Oberoi Hotel group in Mumbai. His winning menu – not yet available to eat at home, but we can hope – included lamb bhuna, Kerala chemmeen pull (prawn curry with tamarind), and aloo shimla minch puneri (potato and green peppers).
Professional rivalry, oyster openers, poultry shears, vegetable parers and all other sharp implements were put aside a couple of days ago to honour winners of the Guild of Food Writers awards. We all want to be applauded by our peers, confident that they aren't swayed by commercial success but know dedication, research, knowledge, and talent when they read it. (How could they, then, have overlooked the Truffler?) Congratulations and recommendations from the highest foodie quarters went to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for The River Cottage Cookbook, Gordon Ramsay and Roz Denny for Just Desserts, and Anthony Bourdain – him again – for A Cook's Tour as Food Book of the Year. Fuchsia Dunlop received the Jeremy Round award, named after The Independent's founding food writer who died tragically young, for her dazzling Sichuan Cookery.
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, whose Food: a History was pipped to one of the awards by Bourdain was in discussion with The River Café's Ruth Rogers and author Michèle Roberts as part of the Festival Hall's Feast: Cooking and Culture series of talks around the subject of food. The event was chaired by our restaurant reviewer Tracey MacLeod, and the panel's contributions were varied: in one of her short stories Michèle Roberts had imagined the obsessed former student of a TV chef using her butchery, cooking and dining skills as an expression of love; Ruth Rogers evoked the theatrical aspects of running a restaurant; Fernandez-Armesto also put the case for cannibalism. The next talk in the series is on Thursday, when Sam and Sam Clark, the husband and wife chefs who started Moro restaurant, explain how travels in Spain and North Africa inspired them. The following Wednesday, 20 March, film director Gurinder Chadha talks about how food binds minority cultures together, and shows clips from her film What's Cooking and her forthcoming Bend it with Beckham. Both talks are at the Voice Box in the Royal Festival Hall, tickets £5 from the box office (020-7960 4242).
With characteristic gusto, Fernandez-Armesto denounced the vegetarian brother- and sisterhood that adopts the moral high ground and ignores the enjoyment of eating. Vegetarians, feel free to barbecue him. Then do your bit to improve the image of vegetarianism by making nominations for this year's Vegetarian Society Awards, votes for which are being canvassed (0161-925 2000, www.vegsoc.org/awards). One of last year's winners was some Quorn product, but others, such as Terre à Terre restaurant in Brighton, were the sort that give the V-sign a good name. The more nominations, the better this year's results will be, and the more the likes of Mr Fernandez-Armesto will be proved wrong.Reuse content