Jason Goodwin

The bliss of proper bread

I cannot claim the gift of prophecy, but early this year — before lockdown panic-buying and the warnings of a dire wheat harvest causing bread price rises — I became a bread-maker. I dug around on the internet for a good recipe for sourdough, and found one padded out with the usual bloggery and waffle.

Fear of little men

When this survey of British fairydom arrived I turned to the chapter on Dorset to read about the little people of my county. After a survey of place names referring to the ‘puca’, which may or not connect with Shakespeare’s Puck, I received the disheartening news that Dorset wasn’t very good for fairies, and that

A badger eats, squats, thieves. But should we cull them?

Lord Arran was responsible for the bill to legalise homosexuality and a bill to protect badgers from gassing and terrier-baiting. One, he said, had stopped people badgering buggers; the other stopped them buggering badgers. The Homosexuality Act had an easier passage through the Lords. ‘Not many badgers in the House of Lords,’ he observed. The

Spirit of the wild water

I was sheltering in the dunes on a Hebridean beach, reading this book, when I happened to glance up and see an otter galumphing out of the machair and down onto the sand, 20 yards off. Long, hump-backed and shiny, it was the first wild otter I had ever seen. Such is the talismanic power

Saviours of the sea

The last time we went out for lobster in Lyme Bay we found a dogfish in the creel.  A type of shark that roamed the seas before dinosaurs existed, a dogfish won’t slice your leg off the way a Great White might, but it is very scratchy to hold onto, thanks to its denticles, the

Sting in the tale

Bees are news. The advent of a sinister condition dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder has concentrated many minds on the future of the honey bee, not least in the US where the disorder is prevalent and pollination by bees accounts for billions of dollars’ worth of agricultural produce. Bees are news. The advent of a sinister

No man’s land

The shores of the eastern Mediterranean, from the eastern Aegean to the delta of the Nile, constitute a region known as the Levant, from the French for the sunrise. The French were first into Smyrna, opposite the island of Chios, which became a boom town in Ottoman times, trading figs and raisins from the hinterland.

In and out of favour in Iraq

Nowadays the TV cameras make Baghdad look like a suburban car park, and for Tamara Chalabi, raised in England and Beirut on memories of pre-Saddam Iraq, the first encounter in 2003 was dismal. Her family kissed the very ground as they returned from exile, but initially she felt, and recognised, nothing. She has worked hard

At Home in Turkey

If you can’t afford the airfare you might take this delicious guided tour instead. Exploring some of the best contemporary Turkish houses (or caves), the photographer, Solvi dos Santos, divides her subjects by season, as if to emphasise the perpetual variety of Turkey’s terrain — and the successive civilisations that have held sway there. Berrin

In the footsteps of Herodotus

The Man who Invented History, by Justin Marozzi When Kristin Scott Thomas told a saucy tale out of Herodotus in the film of The English Patient, sales of The Histories shot up 450 per cent, according to Justin Marozzi, who has taken the seemingly inevitable step of travelling around the Herodotean world in the footsteps

A long and happy life

Jason Goowin reviews the memoirs of John Julius Norwich In 1957 John Julius Cooper (later Norwich) was keeping open house in Beirut, ‘the Clapham Junction of the world’s air routes’.Guests were given dinner on the terrace, where the Coopers liked to watch their faces ‘as, promptly at ten minutes past nine, an immense, luminous grapefruit appeared from