SHEPHERD’S pie, her Syrian childhood, and her great-grandmother’s secret romance with a Pre-Raphaelite painter – this Saturday, best-selling food writer Josceline Dimbleby is “in conversation” at Bridgwater Arts Centre, for what looks set to be a feast of more than food.
With 16 cookery books published, and over two-million copies sold in the UK alone, the former Sunday Telegraph columnist’s craft has earned her a loyal following.
Josceline told the Mercury: “My food memory begins with spices in Syria. Those tastes, of the spices I came to know in that Damascus kitchen, remain the most vivid memory of my childhood. Lamb with cumin, for instance, and the apricots that grew in the Ghouta suburb.”
When, in 1978, those spices reappeared in her debut cookbook for Sainsbury’s, Josceline caused a stir.
“Food has always been tied with life for me, full of my own creative ideas; odd ideas – I remember the reaction to my recipe for Shepherd’s pie with cumin was “Oh my God”, because fusion cooking didn’t exist then.”
In 2004 the writer took a different tack with ‘A Profound Secret’ – in which she uncovered her great-grandmother's affair with the artist Edward Burne-Jones.
The experience of delving into her relation’s past felt deeply personal, yet historic, said Josceline.
It was sparked by meeting a cousin who, as a young man, to fund a new theatre “had sold off a whole load of Burne-Jones that had belonged to my grandmother”. She paid him a visit.
“I went up to his house, and he took me into his library. I opened this chest of drawers, and found them absolutely stuffed with these passionate love letters.”
Today, Josceline has retained her importance as cookery guru to the modern family, rewriting her 1980’s bestseller, Marvellous Meals with Mince, for a new issue in September 2012.
“It was my absolute bestseller during the recession of the 80s. It’s a very, very useful book for families, because mince is a very versatile ingredient.”
Josceline will be speaking with BAC's in-house author, Sinead Gillespie, and foodie, Fran Bunce, from 8pm on Saturday. Tickets cost £10 at bridgwaterartscentre.co.uk