Laura Gladwin, author of Feast Your Eyes on Food, thought she knew everything about food until she started writing this book. A chef, a writer, and a cookbook editor, Laura wanted to create a food encyclopedia for children to pore through that was full of fun facts, and ended up learning a whole lot herself!
From foods you might not have heard of, such as the ridged gourd used as a loofah in India, to familiar favourites, such as the scrumptious Victoria Sponge, Laura’s book has something to make everyone’s mouth water. It is truly a celebration of the wonderful (and sometimes weird) world of food!
When writing this book, did you start with your favourite foods?
No, I deliberately made sure to mix up my favourite foods (such as cheese) with some I was less keen on (erm—I can't really think of any!), to make the writing process more varied and fun. There were also some foods that I knew would be more difficult than others. It wasn't so much the research, but deciding what to include and what to leave out! This was especially tricky with fish and baked goods like cakes and biscuits because there are so many too choose from and I wanted to make sure there was a good balance of things people already knew and new things for them to discover. I think my favourite spread has to be the biscuits. Who doesn't love a biscuit? And they're the perfect size and shape for drawing.
What were some of your favourite parts of writing this book?
I think my favourite part was learning new things about foods I thought I knew. I've worked in food for many years, but there's still so much to discover. Did you know that the astronaut Buzz Aldrin took bourbon biscuits with him to the Moon? Or that there is a type of cheese made from donkey milk? I also really enjoyed seeing Zoe Barker's wonderful drawings evolve during the process. You can really see how illustrations capture the beauty and essence of something in a way that photography can't.
What foods didn’t you like as I child, and did you ever learn to like them?
I was actually quite picky when I was a child, and for a few years lived mostly off peanut butter, baked beans and yoghurt. But as I grew older and started cooking, I learned to love nearly everything. I think that's partly because supermarket fruit and vegetables have—on the whole—become so much tastier over the last few decades.
Were you excited for the Baking Bingo game? Have you played it yet?
Absolutely! I thought it was a great idea. And yes, it's already a firm favourite with my family, although playing it usually makes us want to eat cake and biscuits!
Did writing Feast Your Eyes on Food make you hungry?
It did, although I'm kind of used to that because I spent many years editing recipe books, so I'm accustomed to thinking about food all the time. What writing the book really did was remind me of all the different things there are to eat out there, and it led me to try using different ingredients from the ones I usually do. For example, I discovered that homemade cassava chips are delicious, and tried Cotton Candy grapes for the first time. I also started cooking more dishes from other countries. I wrote a lot of the book during the first Covid lockdown, and it certainly helped make mealtimes more exciting!
Was there a particular moment when you realised you really loved food?
I don't know if there was a particular moment. I always enjoyed baking on Sundays as a child, but I think it was my grandmother's cooking that showed me how wonderful food could be, and the pleasures of feeding the people you love. When I decided to train as a chef in my early twenties, I think it was the science and creativity of cooking that I was really drawn to.