On a cold, icy night in February I went along to the monthly meeting of Finchley WI in North London. Due to the unstoppable surge of the London WI, there are now close to 30 in the capital alone. From national campaigning to cupcake conventions, each one is totally unique in its make-up, interests and innovative range of guest speakers. Tonight was no exception.
In the hot-seat sat Guardian’s Word of Mouth food blogger Tim Hayward, who introduced his new ‘baby’ to a hall of cooing ladies. Fire & Knives is a devastatingly handsome new food quarterly magazine which, in Tim’s words, ‘had to be about love of, enthusiasm for, and fascination with food, in all its aspects’. The one-line brief to writers is simple: ‘write as an amateur, about something you love.’
I became pretty engrossed in my copy which was crammed with the type of old-school fonts, timeless illustrations and eccentric home-spun prose you could only dream of carrying round in your handbag. I was getting carried away by a particularly macabre piece of fiction about quails eggs when I was asked by the lovely President, Sara, to do a little talk on the WI and my cake blog.
It was rabbit in the headlights time. A dry throat, sweaty palms, and crimson face, before a smattering of inaudible words. I think I attempted to make some kind of crazed eye contact with anyone that would offer me a smile. My childhood poetry recitals, piano festivals and drama classes had done me no favours. I was floundering – in front of 15 of the nicest women you could wish to meet.
Incredulously, Tim asked me if I’d like to write a piece about the history of food initiatives and the WI for the third issue of Fire and Knives. Sadly, the blush had no limits and I was to resign myself from a career of public speaking.
Happily, Issue 3 is out now and includes food myth debunking by Tom Parker-Bowles, tea talk with Henrietta Lovell, and a lovely portait piece of Joe ‘the bartender’ Gilmore by Lydia Fulton, writer and decorator of antique tea-sets.
Subscribe here or pick up a copy from Foyles.