Editor at Large: The Great Beer Flood of 1814


Posted by in March's Magazine

19th Century engraving of the event

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Anybody who knows me will tell you I am an anti-geek. Perhaps I flatter myself; maybe I’m just a technophobe. So imagine my unalloyed joy when on one of my infrequent net sweeps I found Fire & Knives a food quarterly about all things food related (and much more besides). Ironically, and perhaps aptly, you cannot read it online. You must subscribe.

Their truncated (by me) Manifesto for would be contributors reads: ‘We aim to give established – or new – writers a place for work that would not be published elsewhere, we don’t pay. F&K is designed to sit in the food lover’s library rather than kitchen. Recipes and techniques are okay within the flow of a piece but never as the main subject. Tone should always be that of the respectful and enthusiastic amateur even when you are an established expert in your field. We reserve the right to change these guidelines if they stop us publishing something we’d love to read’.

Pompous perhaps but that last line makes me want to subscribe right away. Rebel food publishing? Let’s see.

How about a ‘lost’ Elizabeth David review (surely mislaid?) of Fanny Craddock’s Cooking with Can & Pack? ‘The Craddock’s believe, as I do, that most people who eat out of tins do so for pleasure rather than reasons of economy in time, trouble or money, but tinned sardines on buttered toast with processed cheese browned under the grill is not the recipe for me’.

Photo essays of empty restaurants or a pop up speakeasy, short stories, unpublished classic food writing, words on obscure TV shows involving the likes of John Tovey – the original contrarian’s contrarion at the Miller Howe Hotel in the 1970s, where guests were gonged in to Dinner.

There appears to be no discernable editorial interference, making for a ragbag, rollicking, occasionally pretentious read. I set myself a speedreading test for the purpose of this piece but it rapidly became clear that would be to do Fire & Knives a disservice. It is a cabinet of curiosities. 

The following bits and bobs are from half an issue alone… 

The great beer flood of 1814 in which nine innocent (in what way could they be guilty?) people died by drowning, yes, in beer.

Vincent Price on Ayrshire Poacher’s Roll. Well, let’s break the rules:

25g butter

2 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped                                             

70g fresh, soft breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

2 teaspoons chopped parsley 

60g raisins

1 beaten egg 

6 slices of Canadian bacon (4” in diameter)?!

An article on the TV series, 24, notes that Keifer Sutherland’s character Jack Bauer, who kills 266 people while saying “dammit” 118 times, ate one meal in 192 episodes. While funeral technicians working on Princess Di’s death mask used it to make a vodka jelly of her face.

One issue was produced on Battle of Britain tea (it does exist), Madeira wine and hand-raised pork pies. This is all sounding very Brexiteer, an unfortunate coincidence. I bought my copies of Fire & Knife ages ago and am only now reading them. 

Remember my admission of technophobia? Well I‘ve just googled the magazine’s website and it no longer exists. No fret, just borrow my copies!

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