Write It 2014 Winner
30 June 2014
The Guild of Food Writers is delighted to announce that 14-year-old Rutina Samuel from Norfolk has won the 2014 Write It Competition. Rutina fought off stiff competition from many aspiring young food writers.
This annual competition, organised by the Guild of Food Writers, is open to entrants aged up to 18 years old. Entrants were asked to write a non-fiction feature of around 750 words on any food-related subject.
The judges Stefan Gates, Joan Ransley and Karen Barnes were unanimous in their verdict on Rutina’s piece Little Ethiopia. They described the feature as ‘a lucid, emotionally sensitive, autobiographical piece of writing with a strong voice.’ The judges loved the structure of the piece and one judge said ‘This piece of writing speaks to me! The description of Injera and Wat is detailed and interesting. I feel inspired to eat the food described. I get a sense of place from this writing. Heart warming and a lovely piece of writing.’
Rutina’s prize includes all the books shortlisted for the 2014 Guild of Food Writers Awards, as well as the opportunity to have her entry published on the delicious magazine website and to have a trip to the delicious test kitchen.
The judges also highly commended:
- Thomas Moore (aged 15) from London. His piece was called Tastes and Memories and the judges praised his ‘extensive vocabulary and … sophisticated appreciation of food for a young person.’ The judges felt ‘his writing voice has great “tone”, reads well and avoids clichés.’
- Abby Busuttil (aged 14) from Lancashire. The judges felt that her feature Wow! was ‘a powerful piece of writing’ The judges loved the ‘provocative, arresting language’ and ‘great descriptions.’
You can read the winning and highly commended entries by clicking more below.
Write It 2015 Winning Entries
Winner: Rutina Samuel
Africa. It has a rich cultural tapestry has always captivated me; the flamboyant attire, the many languages and tribal rituals and the music that has so heavily influenced the more western R&B I love to listen to. Music, and particular singing, is a great passion of mine and has become what I live and breathe, what keeps me calm and concentrated when I need it most. That said, it is second only to the most important cultural treasure the “Dark Continent” has gifted to me; food.
My father is Ethiopian. Some of my earliest memories are of my father and I travelling into nearby South Africa to buy clothes, jewellery, hats and scarves for our family run store from the colourful markets Johannesburg is inundated with. Although I loved the hot scotch eggs and fried dough treats you could find on street corners, my favourite thing about ‘Jozi’ was the Ethiopian cafés, coffee houses and restaurants. I quickly learnt about Injera how to eat it in the traditional way, all with the help of my father of course.
Not once have I ever used a utensil to eat Ethiopian food; it is simply not the done thing. Ethiopian food is eaten with your hands. Injera is a spongy sourdough flatbread native to Ethiopia and Eritrea and is made from Teff flour which is a grain that originates in the Ethiopian and Eritrean region. The flour is mixed with water and left to ferment overnight and is then cooked in a flat pan giving it an almost pancake-like appearance. It is then placed on a flat dish and is the base for the many curries (Wats), vegetables and salads that can be eaten with it. For instance Tibs, shredded meat of choice sautéed with berbere (traditional seasoning typically consisting of ground ginger, cardamom, chillies, cloves, nutmeg and allspice) and other vegetables.
Ethiopian cuisine is suited to people of varied dietary needs. The actual Injera bread is yeast and gluten free, making it ideal for those with Coeliac Disease or Yeast Intolerance. Vegetarians have the option of eating Misr Wat, a red lentil stew made using berbere, Yemisir Wat or Misir Alicha (variations of lentil stews using different seasoning such as turmeric sauce or using a different type of lentil). My personal favourite vegetarian dish is Gomen Kitfo which is boiled and dried collard greens that are then seasoned with chilli and mixed with cottage cheese. Although I tend to steer clear of cottage cheese in western meals, Gomen Kitfo provides a sourness tinged with the heat of the chilli that I feel compliments the other wats on the mixed communal platter that around 4 people can all eat from. Another vegetable dish I adore is Tikil Gomen which consists of cabbage, potatoes and carrots seasoned with salt, pepper, turmeric and garlic. I feel that the mildness of this dish as well as that of the surprisingly western salad always readily available, delivers a sort of respite from the heat and spice of the other wats.
As previously mentioned, I moved from vibrant market and agricultural town in southern Africa to a relatively quiet old market town in Norfolk, South East of England. Don’t get me wrong, I love England and all the opportunities this beautiful country has provided me with, but I do catch myself daydreaming about the food and people I could be learning about and from, first-hand.
So great is this yearning for further knowledge of my heritage that I regularly drag my mother to a small Ethiopian restaurant near Finsbury Park called The Blue Nile. The fact that I speak a grand total of about six words of my father’s native language (Amharic) has always made me feel like a foreigner amongst my own people. Despite the language barrier, one waitress sat with us for a good twenty minutes explaining what each dish on the menu was, how spicy the dish was and which dishes went together the best. It may not have been a Michelin star worthy establishment but to me it may well have been Buckingham Palace. The most important thing was that I reconnected with my roots and my traditions which was something I feared would not happen unless a boarded a plane back to Africa. That restaurant has become my little piece of Ethiopia and I am determined to never forget where I came from.
Highly commended: Thomas Moore
Tastes and Memories
For most of my life I have been either ill or recovering from being ill. I am going to be sixteen this summer and I am as right as rain. This is a new feeling and allows me to look back over my childhood, and what I find is that through the many challenges I have faced, the colour and the texture of my life so far has been provided by food.
It began in London, where my foodie family convene around the dining table. I was and am indulged by a number of loving women … my mother and my three older sisters, with my father providing quantity, and a plethora of cheeses. I think when I arrived my sisters saw me as a cross between a new pet and a doll, so not only was I the only baby boy who sported pink finger and toe nails, as soon as I could eat they fed me. All of them, all the time.
Perhaps the first delight I gave was when my mother would dip her finger in her wine, and put it in my mouth. I would grin toothlessly and try and retain the finger permanently. I was particularly keen on Sauternes, and Champagne apparently. Bubbles and sweetness … mmmm.
Pieces of crystallised ginger, pureed rhubarb, mashed celariac, mashed ratte potatoes … no King Edwards for me … leeks in vinaigrette. I don't even have to think, I remember the tastes and they are still among my favourites. Textures too; foie gras, with its silky melting quality ... my first oyster at four, mussels in the ile de Re with tiny crabs inside the steamed shells. It was a world I instantly fell in love with, and which however unpleasant things were, I found a joy. When I was very ill, I developed transient coeliac, now thankfully a distant memory, so my family dedicated themselves alongside me to the exploration of the world of meat. Steak, in every possible form, from fillet to minute via T bone. Steak tartare, with plenty of tabasco, cassoulet ... the beans made up for lack of bread. I even like offal, sweetbreads and veal kidneys being my favourites. My passion for mustard, if possible from Maille, green and full of tarragon, has got me through many a tough piece of skirt. I love game, pheasant and woodcock ... with game chips, and I have a passion for broccoli. Any broccoli, although tenderstem is my snack of choice. I have never met a vegetable I do not like.
Things changed dramatically when we moved to South Africa. I was ten and my culinary education to that point had taken place in London … Spain … baby legs of lamb and Burgundy, my mother's spiritual home ... Restaurant Lameloise. I found myself recuperating in a quite different environment, and until last year my memories took on a different hue. Blue skies and burning sugar cane backdropped litchi sellers. Zulus at the 'robots' or traffic lights sold vertical piles of pineapples. Thunder and lightning mushrooms called amakowe in a risotto or with my breakfast.
I swam in the sea alongside sharks and yellowtail, and learned to appreciate the taste of Natal spiny crayfish when they were pulled of the rocks. I never grew to think that the seafood in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean rivalled what I had eaten in Europe. The texture was softer, and I always· tried to eat a lobster when I came home.
School brought its own memories, of sitting, baking hot with my friends in a safari suit, eating curry from a loaf of bread every Monday. This most delicious of lunches, the dough of the bread pulled out and the hole filled with Durban lamb curry, wakes me up even now, mouth watering. So do the samoosas and butter avocados that I never appreciated until it was too late.
So, here I am, a foodie a bit before my time, with a culinary memory most would envy. Last summer we arrived back in Europe and I had my first real taste of Champagne at Krug. My friends laugh as I refuse Burger King in favour of my latest favourite eaterie.
I can't say yet whether food will be my career, although I am certain it will always be my passion. I have got through GCSE revision with the reward system of a piece of Brillat Savarin with truffle oil for every ten pages learnt, and I am looking forward to the world of wine ... soon I will be legal, roll on eighteen.
Highly commended: Abby Busuttil
Mcvities latest product, launched last Saturday, they are called Mini Milkshake Vanilla flavour biscuits. They are undoubtedly the best!
As soon a I saw the wonderfully rainbow coloured packet I knew that the release of the product in front of me, the one staring at me, pleading to be eaten, would be a huge success to the food industry.
The printed pattern of warm, pastel like coloured stripes on the background gave a friendly touch, making the candyfloss like pink coloured bubble writing stand out like a sore thumb. In a nice way by the way!
The curvy, almost childlike writing was laughable and put the rest of the beautiful images on the packet in a happy mood. My lips were becoming more and more inpatient every second! I was in paradise just looking at them. I was so tempted, like never before!
Never before had I tasted vanilla flavoured biscuits never before had I tasted something so delicious, especially a product with less than five hundred calories contained inside it.
The cartoon like packet rustled in my hand just desperate to be opened. Then the soft sweet smell hit my nose and sent my whole body wild. The excitement took over me and was so very hard to control. It sent shivers running up my spine as well as feeling my mouth becoming wetter and wetter with curiosity. I knew for sure that as soon as I felt the edge of the creamy, brittle textured biscuit that I was in for a treat.
I couldn't resist another one and another. And another, until GONE! Was that it? Surely there was more? As I looked down at what was left, I saw the rough textured, fine grains of sugar that had previously coated each tiny bundle of joy that were now inside my tummy, rolling around the inside of the empty packet. WHOOPS! Have you ever eaten the whole of something without realising?
I asked myself 'was that the most exciting food tasting session over?' the answer was yes. And that was upsetting. Never again would I feel so overwhelmed over such a small piece of food! As gutted as I was, at least now I definitely knew that this magnificent product in front of me would make it. It would be a great success!