Rice and Indonesia: In Conversation with Sri Owen: Tuesday 30 January 2018

Date: 30/01/2018
Event Time(s): 18:00

Location: Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, London EC2V 7HH

Number of places left:

Price: £10.00 (Members) and £20.00 (non-members)
How to Book: To provisionally reserve a place, please email

Indonesian food and rice expert Sri Owen (below) will talk to Guild President Xanthe Clay, in the first of a series of ‘in conversation’ events with our Lifetime Achievement Award winners.

Photograph of Sri Owen
This is a chance to enjoy the company, stories and knowledge of one of our most distinguished and interesting food writers. Sri’s long life has included 15 books, as well as teaching and cooking around the world, print and broadcast journalism, running a shop and being an integral part of the Oxford Food Symposium.

Sri has been an authoritative and engaging ambassador for the authentic food culture, ingredients and dishes of Indonesia and other countries in South East Asia. Her bestseller The Rice Book, winner of the 1994 André Simon Memorial Award, was acclaimed as one of the top 50 cookbooks of all time by Observer Food Monthly and has 200 recipes drawn from 100 countries that grow rice.
Cover of The Rice Book by Sri Owen
‘I love rice, and I want everyone to share my enjoyment of it,’ writes Sri Owen in the introduction to The Rice Book. ‘I grew up among rice fields, with people who did not consider rice at all exotic, though it still had traces of magic. Today I find rice, in a dozen or more varieties, in western supermarkets, and no one any longer thinks of it as foreign. For me, the magic is as strong as ever.’ The book is about the culture and growing of rice, as well as its many recipes. ‘In the old societies of Asia, rice is a link between earth and heaven,’ she writes. ‘It shapes our landscapes and the way we live, as it has done for many centuries. It is also at the root of our political and economic life, present and future.’
Cover of Sri Owen's Indonesian Food
The evening will take us through the drama of Sri’s early life, from her time learning about Indonesian food in her grandmother’s kitchen in West Sumatra and a happy childhood that ended with the Japanese invasion during the war; her academic career; marriage to an Englishman, Roger Owen, who came to Indonesia with the British Council, and moving to London and working at the BBC World Service; and then developing her love of food and cooking through the different stages of her long career as a food writer, from her first book, The Home Book of Indonesian Cookery, published in 1976, through to her explorations of regional Indonesian food and the cuisines of South East Asia, a study of noodles, as well as rice, and on to New Wave Asian. She was presented with the Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.
Photograph of Xanthe Clay and Sri Owen
Guild President Xanthe Clay congratulating Sri Owen
on her Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 Guild Awards

Sri’s knowledge, life and career holds many stories and thoughts about food. We look forward to an evening of conversation, alongside delicious glassfuls and tastes of Indonesian and rice dishes.

To add another layer to the evening, we’re going to repeat the successful idea tried out at Ivan Day’s historic food lecture and we’d love any other members to join in and cook their favourite recipes from Sri’s books. Please email Angela Clutton ( to let us know what you will be bringing and to get information on the practical details.

The Guildhall Library in the City of London has one of the country’s best collections of food and drink books, including the Guild of Food Writers own archive, as well as a number of important collections, notably those of Elizabeth David – with astringent marginalia - and André Simon, plus archive material of Arabella Boxer and Evelyn Rose. Librarian Peter Ross, also a food writer, is keen for members to use the extensive collection, accessible to order online or quickly in situ.

The evening will begin with food and drink from 6pm and then the conversation will start at 6.45pm.

Cost: £10 for members (£5 to members bringing a dish) and £20 for non-members/guests, to include drinks and tastings of the Sri Owen’s dishes produced by Guild members and Sri’s own classic Beef and Buffalo Rendang.

Directions: The nearest tube stations are Bank or St Paul’s (both Central Line), Mansion House (District and Circle Line) and Moorgate (Northern, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City Lines); for help planning your journey go to

Living Food: A Feast for Soil & Soul
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by Daphne Lambert
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