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Charles Campion, food writer and critic, takes on today's fine food issues

“Trends bubbling under”

Earlier in 2017, when the year was but a pup, Greggs the high street baker announced an impressive rise in several key financial indicators. For investors lucky enough to hold Greggs shares, dividends were up by 8.4%, and all of this despite a background of gloom and doom and low interest rates. There is always something to cheer about if you look hard enough and a healthy options range now accounts for 10% of Greggs’ turnover. The strategists at the bakers have pulled off something of a coup as there are very few bedfellows as uneasy as the Greggs “Balanced Choices” range and their own formidable sausage roll

“Let me tell you a story”

Some would say that Damon Runyon was one of the greatest ever masters of the short story. He wrote reams of them and was still churning stuff out on his deathbed in 1946. They are well written tales and peopled with stylised characters like Harry the Horse and Nicely Nicely Johnson. Eventually Runyon amalgamated all these characters into a smash hit – Guys and Dolls

“Gung hay fat choi!”

This year the Chinese New Year was early and the main festivities ran from 27th January until 2nd February. For everyone else this is a quiet time of year, with both food shops and restaurants choosing to lie low in January. Eventually St Valentine’s Day will encourage an upward blip in the sales figures and things will perk up

“Happy New Year!”

Welcome to a New Year as yet untarnished and still full of optimism. Magazine editors everywhere will have got together and commissioned a raft of pieces about the future for January. What are the trends for 2017? Will there be some new 'must-cook' foods? Will there be developments so earth-shattering that the face of retail is changed beyond all recognition? This time last year, all the speculation was about Brexit. No one knew how it would end up and we still don’t, although it is fair to say that the result managed to be both unexpected and inconclusive

“Shop happy”

Every year, early October sees a good number of restaurants holding their breath in anticipation. Setting aside the merits of a tyre-maker’s opinion about gastronomy, the Michelin Guide to Britain and Ireland is a plump red book much beloved of chefs. For many otherwise sane and sensible cooks this guide is the one, and to win a star is the ultimate cheffy ambition

“How to make a food town”

“Weather”

September is an agreeable month. There’s often an interlude of decent weather in the US which has become known as an “Indian Summer” (allegedly because the Native Americans needed autumn sunshine to ripen the maize that was their staple diet)

“Picnic perfection”

It’s no surprise that one of my favourite passages in the Wind in the Willows is the one where Ratty checks out the picnic that he has put together for himself and the Mole. The enticing list of goodies seems endless: “coldchickencoldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssandwichespotted meatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater”

“Less is more… more or less”

No sooner had the audience figures nudged over a monster 13 million than the producers of the Great British Bake Off intensified their hunt for a spin off. Something without Mel, Sue and their particular brand of innuendo but hanging onto their coat tails

“Singing the blessing”

Food awards come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s not often that the first job of the judges is to sing along with the “blessing of the pies” – words by the Reverend Kevin Ashby and appropriately enough set to the tune of American Pie

“Sausage wars”

When it comes to enthusiasm for sausages and pies I bow to no man. For me the humble snorker plays a pivotal role on many menus, filling the gap between lumps of meat various and those more complicated dishes that tickle the chef’s fancy. But given their often utilitarian role, sausages can be surprisingly sophisticated

“Back to Basics”

February is a particularly sullen month. Wallets are still smarting from Christmas, credit cards sulk and anyone running a restaurant is hanging on for St Val’s day in the hope that a dose of spurious romance will kick start the dining year

“Through a glass darkly”

Towards the end of December, the editors of large newspapers start to fret about what stories they should be running in their New Year editions

 
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