London's Cultural Guide

British Library’s Food Season is now on

A season of talks, tastings and workshops from writers, historians, food experts and chefs

Whether it’s handwritten manuscripts of printed cookery books, letters and diaries revealing the intimate details of eating habits, or in-depth oral histories of food producers, food is probably more present in the British Library’s collections than you might imagine.

Want to see chef Heston Blumenthal and composer Dominic Murcott contemplating the relationship between food and music through micro experiments and tastings?

Or celeb chef Yotam Ottolenghi exploring the role upbringing and genes play in shaping how we enjoy food?

Or even food writers Nigella Lawson, Bee Wilson and Ella Risbridger exploring the role of voice, narrative and storytelling in cookery books?


Then book a ticket pretty darn quick. Here are our choice picks of the two-month festival, which runs until the end of May.

Our Top 7 highlights

Catch Nadiya Hussain on 16th May. Photo: PR

1. Food Music: The Ultimate Taste Test
Are there similarities between taste in music and taste in food? What is good or bad taste in either? Explore these questions with chef, inventor, and maverick Heston Blumenthal and award-winning composer Dominic Murcott. The event features live music, micro experiments, tastings and conversation. Wed 22nd May

2. Taste: How Does It Work?
We know what we like, but what shapes our preferences? Yotam Ottolenghi joins food writer Bee Wilson and professor of genetic epidemiology Tim Spector to ask how do we learn to taste, what influences our taste, and the role of upbringing, genes or gut microbes play in shaping our pleasure in food. Thurs 25th April

3. Nadiya Hussain and Sara Cox in Conversation
Two women from the worlds of food and music talk about their upbringings and careers, the roles they’ve had to play along the way, food and cooking in their lives, and what it means to be a working woman in the public eye. Thurs 16th May

4. How to Cook the Perfect…
How do you develop instincts that enable you to know which recipes or flavours will work? And then write about this process in an engaging way? Felicity Cloake, of The Guardian’s ‘How To Cook the Perfect …’ food column, and Niki Segnit, author of The Flavour Thesaurus and Lateral Cooking, reflect. Tues 14th May

5. The Secrets of Manuscript Cookbooks
Presented by Observer critic and MasterChef judge Jay Rayner, BBC Radio 4’s culinary panel show is packed full of facts and stories that might change the way you think about food, cooking, and eating. Tues 30th April

6. Cheers to Beer: Talk and Tasting With Jane Peyton
Beer expert Jane Peyton hosts a talk and tasting session which looks at the history of beer production in the UK, introduces you to the range of beers available today, and invites you to hone your beer-tasting skills. Tues 21st May

7. Joanne Harris: Food in Fiction
Author of Chocolat Joanne Harris reflects on her work and the place of food in her novels, including her new book, The Strawberry Thief, the compelling and long-awaited new Chocolat sequel. Mon 15th April

The British Library Food festival runs until 31st May 2019, Euston Road NW1. To book tickets (£10-£35) visit

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