“Food is how I navigate my way through life”

Lucas Hollweg is one of Britain’s best food writers. While looking back on his life he realised that there were multiple food lightbulb moments in his life…

“Food is how I navigate my way through life”

Looking back, I should have known that food would be important in my life. At the age of eight, I announced to my parents that I intended to write a children’s guide to eating in Europe – until I realised my knowledge of the subject wouldn’t amount to a volume of any size or interest.

But it wasn’t until 30 years later – when I was writing fairly regularly about the pleasures of cooking and eating – that I understood what a fortuitous turn my life had taken. Reminiscing with my sister about childhood holidays, it struck me that the starting point for our memories was often very different. Hers took shape around people – friends, relatives, the strolling players of life. Mine almost always centred on something I had eaten or drunk.

"Hot chocolate sauce on vanilla ice cream conjures an Austrian village in spring, an onion-domed baroque church and the tinkle of dripping icicles."

It is a cliché, in the context of memory, to mention Proust’s madeleine – the little sponge cake that opens his epic literary work, Remembrance of Things Past. But the power of food to evoke whole landscapes of time gone by has always struck a chord with me. The recollected image of a simple meatball soup, clear and thin and speckled with parsley, zooms out in my mind to reveal a portrait of my grandparents laughing in a north German café. A childhood glass of grenadine pans slowly across a sun-baked Spanish square to a guardia civil wearing a tricorn hat. A breakfast tartine with greengage jam summons my five-year-old self on a French campsite, a vertiginous walk across the Pont du Gard and the world viewed from the back of a Renault 4. Hot chocolate sauce on vanilla ice cream conjures an Austrian village in spring, an onion-domed baroque church and the tinkle of dripping icicles.

It’s funny, but those conversations with my sister somehow cemented in my mind the rightness of what I had ended up doing. Food, I realised, wasn’t just something I enjoyed. It was how I navigated my way through life.

Lucas Hollweg is one of Britain’s best food writers and a regular contributor to delicious. magazine. His cookbook, Good Things To Eat is one of editor Karen Barnes’s all-time favourites. ‘It’s food that makes you hungry – and impels you straight into the kitchen to cook,’ says Karen.

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