The British writer and journalist Matthew Fort has just published a new book, Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons, a follow-up to the bestselling Eating Up Italy. In the latter he made an eno-gastronomic journey from Villa San Giovanni in Calabria to Turin in Piedmont on a Vespa called Bud: ‘design icon, landmark of Italian culture, sound, sensible and slowish’. This time, he motors round Sicily on a Vespa called Monica. The result is another comic and culinary masterpiece. Here he speaks about this and more besides in an exclusive interview with Slow Food roving reporter Victoria Blackshaw.
What do you remember of your earliest and best food experiences? How did your interest in food begin?
When I visited my granny she used to give me a cup of chocolate. I can remember it’s dark glossy surface with a fat comma of cream sitting on top. I suppose my affair with food began then. Or perhaps before. I strongly suspect that my brothers, sister and I all inherited the greedy gene from my father. Before I could walk, I crawled into to kitchen garden and gorged myself on peas I managed to pick until I was sick.
In your book, you write ‘Many of my happiest moments have been at one table or another’. Can you elaborate?
Eating with family and friends has been a constant beacon throughout my life, from childhood to now. Cooking, eating, drinking, talking, laughing … is there anything finer in life, anything that defines so many pleasurable and civilised aspects of life in a single idiom?
Your favourite table?
A long, battered, extendable pine table downstairs that’s marked by more breakfasts, lunches, dinners, suppers, and riotous behaviour than I care to remember. It’s a bit rickety now, but it’s the table of memory.
‘Time present and time past’, what was your most memorable meal?
Lunch at The Fat Duck in Bray, near London, with my daughter in November 2007, Fabulous food, fabulous company.
What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had?
It would be indelicate to say.
If you were stranded in the middle of nowhere with Monica, your gleaming red Vespa on which you travelled across Sicily, what three ingredients would you like to have there with you?
Bread, Ragusano cheese and several slices of prosciutto from a Nebrodi black pig.
Eating pizza: hands or knife and fork?
What would be your dream dinner party line-up?
Describe what you might like for your last supper?
Ooooooh. I think I’d have to see what was in the market on the day.
Do you have a food hero?
What do you hope readers take away from your book?
The irresistible desire to visit Sicily
Make a food wish.
To die with a full stomach and a smile on my face.
Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons
Victoria Blackshaw works at the Slow Food Press Office