Sheila Dillon, presenter of BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme, picks her favourite sites.

Sheila Dillon presents BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme. She’s been interested in food policy for years, working in New York at Food Monitor magazine before finding the perfect berth  as Derek Cooper’s producer on the FP. 

Her interest in policy has its roots in childhood greed  as the daughter and granddaughter of good cooks. Early memories are dominated by the delights of food:  eating creamy ground-rice pudding sitting in the warm geranium-scented greenhouse of the farm where she and her sister were sent for the summer holidays; walking around Preston market in her grandmother’s wake with a paper cone of parched peas or winkles -and a pin to pick them out - while her grandmother shopped for Lancashire cheese, brown shrimps for potting at home, or a pigs head to turn into brawn.

Sheila continues to be frustrated, when she’s not enraged, by the endless procession of  expensive (and doomed) government campaigns to finger-wag people into eating ‘healthily’, by which the experts usually mean processed food engineered to be lower in fat, salt and sugar. A policy that’s had such remarkable success in the USA.  


Tangerine and Cinnamon -  One of the very best food blogs ever, anywhere.  It’s written by a young South African academic,  Sarah Emily Duff. She reads everything, writes beautifully  and has a sharp sense of the ridiculous and there’s nowhere near enough of that  in the food world.  One of the subsections of her blog is Foodie Pseudery, puncturing the pretensions of  some of the most self-regarding people (leaving aside the bankers) on the planet. One recent example:

“Jeffrey Steingarten is probably best known for his recent sweaty-palmed ode to Gwyneth Paltrow. But as Vogue‘s food writer, he’s a fine figure of a pseud. This is from an article about what he eats in a week:

‘We had a guest from India. He’s quite old and he’s a very particular eater, so we went to ABC Kitchen for dinner. And he asked me, ‘Obviously the chef didn’t have to do much to the ingredients, so why do you need a good chef?’ I tried to explain how the cooking was not as simple as he thought it was, it just looks simple. We had many dishes: the Jersey tomato on bread, certainly the squash that’s sautéed with Parmesan.’

I salute you, elderly, picky Indian guest.”  

Arts & Letters Daily - A compilation of links to almost everything written in English on the arts (they define the arts loosely).  For a while I had it as the opening page on my laptop, but I had to take it off and discipline myself to looking at it three or four times a week.  They seem to have an extensive network of some of the best-read, lively-minded people anywhere who post every single fascinating article, review, and essay they come across.  Serious brain stimulation.

Jake Tilson -  Jake Tilson is a cook, food writer, designer, fish enthusiast,  member of The Cake Committee & a lot more.  There’s no-one in Britain like him:  food is his delight and the one of the tools he uses to explore  the world.  His Net of Eels exhibition in London on the significance of eels in the UK and Japan was as odd and lovely a show as I’ve ever seen.  And his typefaces on show there made from drawings of eels and the objects we’ve used over the centuries to capture them are beautiful. Nigel Slater enthused ,quite rightly, over his first book, A Tale of Twelve Kitchens:

"It is a joy to read and to look at, heart- warming, inspirational... I love it ."

His most recent book on fish, In At the Deep End is just as good.  And his website is something to savour.

The Onion - It makes me, and a few million others, laugh. High-level ridiculousness.

Amy Lame -  Amy is divine. She’s a comedienne, a dramatically out lesbian who’s been dressing  like those Mad Men women long before Mad Men was a gleam in a producer’s eye and a writer and broadcaster about food.  Her website is a compilation of all her wonderful outrageousness and  includes an archive of her articles. You can hear her on the Danny Baker show every afternoon on BBC London. 

8 December 2011