It is the tradition at Eater to end the year with a survey of friends, contributors, rovers of the industry, and professional eaters. Even a year like this one. For 2020, the group were asked 13 questions, covering the best meals and the worst tweets alongside community responses, and coronavirus pivots. Their answers will appear throughout this week, with responses related in no particular order; cut and pasted below.
Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: The Pandemic Rollercoaster: how it started, how suppliers adapted, how restaurants innovated, temporarily closed; the fear, the permanent closures, how people found pleasures at home, or comfort in recipes; the relentless uncertainty. I don’t think this year will be forgotten in a hurry.
James Hansen, Associate Editor, Eater London: The biased part of me has to say the growth in food newsletters, but I think even better than that is what they seem to represent — a positive, dynamic reaction to inadequacies and failings in food media at large.
There seems to been an increase in readers seeking not just writers who are interesting, but writers who demonstrate that their work is guided by a set of value systems, over and above the correctness of their own opinions. It’s very encouraging to see pushback against the lazy, unthinking — and sometimes, out and out ignorant and racist — writing that complacency so easily lapses into. So anything that represents that pushback would be my best food moment of 2020 — be it a newsletter, an article in a publication, a meme or a tweet. Not much gets better than Tammie Teclemariam’s work on Bon Appétit, though.
Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: What does ‘best’ mean? I’m not sure how to interpret the question this year, but these have been moments that have stood out. Watching the US food media explode was hopeful — maybe a wider reckoning can happen and maybe it can happen in the UK? When ‘Terry’ on Twitter spent a lot of time telling me that cultural appropriation wasn’t a thing, but followed up the next day with “Hi Anna, I did a lot of reading this morning and I must apologise for my ignorance. I had no place commenting on something that I knew so little about, I will continue to educate myself.” That was a first. But The Best is probably Nigella Lawson. Nigella in general, always; Nigella’s new show; Nigella pronouncing microwave.
Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: For two entirely different reasons — Riaz Phillip’s Community Comfort cookbook, which platformed 100 chefs and writers from a diverse set of backgrounds, to create something entirely unseen in the publishing world; and Nigella Lawson’s pronunciation of ‘microwave’ (it’s my opinion that this is the correct way to pronounce it, and actually it’s just everyone else who is wrong).
Chris Cotonou, writer and Eater London contributor: Marco Pierre White’s online cookery course for BBC Maestro. Cooking at home with Marco while I wait to visit his restaurants has made me a way more competent cook (and an even bigger fan!)
Sejal Sukhadwala, food writer and Eater London contributor: Restaurants rapidly pivoting to takeaways and home deliveries when none existed before, creating meal kits from scratch (sometimes using eco-friendly packaging), launching offshoots — all within minutes of the first lockdown being announced, the speed of which made it feel like one long, blurry moment.
Emma Hughes, freelance food writer and Eater London contributor: Nigella giving us all permission not to peel carrots.
Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: There was *so* much hilarity in the face of all the challenges this year: the foolishness around EOTHO and the debate about whether a scotch egg counts as a substantial meal, to name a couple. But my favourite thing by far to happen was, cutting through all that, the launch of a handful of great platforms that put narratives by talented — often overlooked — food writers, cooks, suppliers and producers into a much-deserved spotlight.
Gemma Croffie, writer and Eater London contributor: Personally, the proliferation of food newsletters has been the best food adjacent moment this year. From Vittles to From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy to Eater’s own James Hansen’s In Digestion, we have witnessed a true diversity of thought (Mr Hancock observe!) experience and background. As a black woman, it has been amazing to see myself and people similar to me reflected so often in the food content I read. This gave me the push and confidence I needed to give it a go myself and here we are!
Feroz Gajia, restaurateur and Eater London contributor: The slow march towards better representation in food media across the board, the launch of many newsletters, projects, and mainstream food media finally making an effort to be inclusive. Biggest one for me was Vittles but that’s my own bias showing as it’s consistently excellent, surprising and informative.
Daisy Meager, food writer and Eater London contributor: Restaurants and bars re-opening in July and seeing dining rooms and terraces full of people again.
Ed Cumming, writer and restaurant critic: Marcus Rashford continually schooling the Tories about food poverty. Also, Nigel Ng’s Uncle Roger videos were very funny, mean to Jamie Oliver and genuinely instructive about cooking rice: win, win, win.
Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: Celestial Peach aka Jenny Lau has been the real unsung real lockdown hero. She organised #congeecon at Hackney Chinese community centre where everyone brought their own toppings and it ended up being a glorious congee pick and mix followed by an important community conversation about coronavirus anti-racism. She also set up Asian dessert exchange during the second lockdown, which was essentially Secret Santa, but posting each other’s Asian desserts. It was fun/stressful trying out new Chinese dessert recipes and made me feel less alone and more connected with others taking part.
David J Paw, food writer and Eater London contributor: Personally, I loved the community response that hinged on the ESEAeats hashtag. It’s hard enough for such a scattered community in the UK to connect in the first place, but that it came in light of what could have been another disappointing episode felt like a novel twist that provided a template on how marginalised groups can wrest back some control of the narrative.