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Things to Know Cooking and Science, since 1984 to 2004

Along with many food writers today, I feel a great debt of gratitude to Alan Davidson for the way he brought new substance, scope, and playfulness to our subject. On top of that, it was Alan who informed me that I would have to revise On Food and Cooking — before I’d even held the first copy in my hands!

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At our first meeting in 1984, over lunch, he asked me what the book had to say about fish. I told him that I mentioned fish in passing as one form of animal muscle and thus of meat. And so this great fish enthusiast and renowned authority on the creatures of several seas gently suggested that, in view of the fact that fish are diverse creatures and their flesh very unlike meat, they really deserve special and extended attention.

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Well, yes, they really do. There are many reasons for wishing that this revision hadn’t taken as long as it did, and one of the biggest is the fact that I can’t show Alan the new chapter on fish. I’ll always be grateful to Alan and to Jane for their encouragement and advice, and for the years of friendship which began with that lunch.

This book and my life would have been much poorer without them. I would also have liked to give this book to Nicholas Kurti — bracing myself for the discussion to come! Nicholas wrote a heartwarmingly positive review.

The first edition in Nature, then followed it up with a Sunday-afternoon visit and an extended interrogation based on the pages of questions that he had accumulated as he wrote the review. Nicholas’s energy, curiosity, and enthusiasm for good food and the telling “little experiment” were infectious, and animated the early Erice workshops. They and he are much missed.

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