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OP: A Kipper With My Tea

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by Alan Davidson

One of the most effervescent figures in the food world, Alan Davidson (1924–2003) was at once a scholar and a popularizer, a tireless writer, an artist, diplomat, encyclopedist, ichthyologist, publisher, organizer, and mentor to many of the leading figures in contemporary food studies. 

He was, with such friends and admirers as Elizabeth David, the founder and driving force behind the food history journal Petits Propos Culinaires, the highly productive program of the still-active Oxford Symposia on Food and Cookery, and the respected Prospect Books line of reprints and scholarly books.

His own works ranged from compendia on major seafood communities around the world to handsome illustrated volumes on fruit and on the character of international kitchens.

However, for all his energy and all of his drive, Alan Davidson was a person of great charm and considerable wit. This side of his personality combined with his unremitting intellectual curiosity is revealed in a truly captivating collection of pieces from here and there, written over the years and demonstrating an almost startling range of interests. 

Practically at random, might be mentioned an amusing short story—nothing to do with food, but it was his first paid piece, published in Punch in 1946; “Marmalade: an Unpublished Letter to the Times”; “On the Esculent Fungi” (look it up); ”Fish Livers in Shetland”; “The Harlot of Marseilles” (we’re speaking, of course, about bouillabaisse); “Sticky Fingers” (on Davidson’s efforts at sushi making); and “The Hard Cheeses of England.” 

Subjects aside, these bits and pieces (49 in all) are real writing—lively, smart, engaging, not a one of them taking itself too seriously. True delights. You’d be best advised to read them just one at a time; that way they’ll last you for seven weeks.

This book, brought out handsomely by North Point Press, is a first American edition, published in 1990. It is a hardcover in Fine, unused condition—fresh and tight. The jacket, although price clipped, is otherwise as new. Signed on the half-title page, ”With Best Wishes, Alan Davidson.”

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