Games people play

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The Independent Online
Matthew Fort, 51, writer on food and drink

I used to like games that involved a lot of running around. For years, it was a means of keeping the inevitable side-effects of my passion for food at bay.

I played cricket for the village of Twyford as an off-spin bowler of the master-of-flight school, and I was the most consistent batsman in the side, holding down the number 11 slot for about 10 years. At one point, I went through a series of nine or ten consecutive ducks, and, when I finally managed a run, to hear the cheer that went up you would have thought I'd scored a century.

The other glorious moment was back in 1966 when I spent the summer in Italy, in the Abruzzi. That was the year in which England won the World Cup, and it became bella figura to have an Englishman playing on your local team. I turned out a few times for the village of Licenza, near where my uncle lives, and the fact that I was a hopelessly incompetent football player mattered nothing to them.

The needle match of the year in Licenza was the marrieds versus the bachelors, played on a pitch on which there was not a single blade of grass, although there were several stones roughly the same size and shape as the ball. I scored the winning goal for the unmarrieds, which I have to say was entirely fortuitous, as the ball bounced off my knee and over the prostrate body of the goalkeeper while I stood wondering what on earth was going on.

I don't play games now at all, although there are people who consider that what I do for a living is a game. They simply don't understand what a fantastically demanding job we food writers have, for which we train every day, round about lunchtime.

Matthew Fort's book 'Paul Heathcote's Rhubarb and Black Pudding', a journal of a year in the kitchen of Lancashire's star chef, will be published by Fourth Estate in September.