Book Readings

Here are some wonderfully funny stories from behind the scenes of the catering world; among them the night Leith's nearly caught fire when a dumpy little woman (Princess Margaret, as it happened) ordered roast pheasant, and why Warren Beatty and Julie Christie really wanted to sit under the spotlight. For the very first time, Prue can be heard reading extracts from her autobiography.

At the age of seven, tired and bewildered after a long journey from England to Syria via Lebanon, Josceline Dimbleby caught her first sight of Damascus from the mountain road. In the extract she has chosen to read from her book of recipes, travels and memories, Orchards in the Oasis,  the magic of her first impressions of her new home are vividly recalled;  the deep red mulberry-stained water in the pool, the sun-warmed apricots, the scented pastries that awoke a lifelong passion for food and flavour.

Agnes Jekyll's gift for friendship and organisational skills made her an excellent hostess. Helen Garlick reads three more extracts from Kitchen Essays, published in The Times in 1922, in which Lady Jekyll passes on 'some of the wit and wisdom of her clever and imaginative housekeeping'.

Agnes Jekyll (1860-1937) was the supreme hostess: her house was described as "the apogee of opulent comfort and order without grandeur, smelling of pot-pouri, furniture polish and wood smoke". Lady Jekyll, as she became, first published Kitchen Essays in The Times, "in which she was persuaded to pass on some of the wit and wisdom of her rare gift for clever and imaginative housekeeping".  Helen Garlick reads a few of her favourite extracts...

Alexandre Dumas, best known for such classic novels as The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo and Man in the Iron Mask, wanted to be remembered for a far more esoteric book.  Food was his real passion in life and his Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine was the one book the great novelist cared about.  Mark Hilton reads extracts from Alan and Jane Davidson's translation,  Dumas On Food.

Willie Fowler's Countryman's Cooking was written for men. He joined Bomber Command in WW2, flew Lancasters, was shot down by the Germans and ended up in Stalag Luft 3. When he returned to Cumbria after his release in 1945, he took to farming mink, then daffodils, while rediscovering the delights of hunting, shooting and fishing, not to mention cooking, eating and womanising. We have three extracts read by Rupert Baker to whet the appetite…

Screenwriter, novelist, award winner, journalist, playwright… just a few of the words that describe the literary careers of James and Kay Salter.  They are also responsible for one of the most delightful musings on food in print, Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Day Book published by Knopf. Whether writing about Peanut Butter, The Sandwich, Samuel Johnson's appetite for good eating or The Siege Of Paris this quirky collection is unequalled in its information, erudition and utter originality. Extracts from the book are read by their son, the actor Theo Salter.

Ursula Heinzelmann is a freelance German food and wine writer, a sommelière and a gastronome. She was a good cook before she had learned to read, according to a radio interview on HR2-Kultur, and she was a practitioner before she began to write about food. She has twice been awarded the annual Sophie Coe Prize in Food History at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, most recently in 2006. In 2008 she won the Prix du Champagne Lanson for her wine journalism on Slow Food Magazine. In 2014 Reaktion Books published her well-received Beyond Bratwurst, a chronological history of food in Germany. Ursula recorded three chapters from Beyond Bratwurst for Talking of Food.