Stirring Words


20 Questions: Michael Michaud 20 Questions: Michael Michaud

Michael and his wife Joy run Sea Spring Seeds (01308 897898), a mail order company supplying seeds of quality vegetables. The Michauds produce their own varieties of chilli seeds in West Dorset, including the ‘Dorset Naga’, one of the hottest chillies in the world. For fifteen years they have also run Peppers by Post (01308 897766), a market garden specialising in the production and sales of fresh chillies through the post. An American who has lived in the UK for over 20 years, Michael is a self-styled culinary ethnobotanist who spends much of his time growing, cooking and eating the food plants found in Britain’s immigrant communities. 

1 How did you become a food writer?
As a market gardener producing both familiar and exotic vegetables, I wanted to share the experience of growing and cooking quality produce. I met a like-minded cookery writer (Guild member Christine McFadden), and we wrote Cool Green Leaves and Hot Red Peppers, a book about vegetables in the garden and kitchen. That was in 1998, and I have continued writing about vegetables for various publications. 

2 What are your three favourite cookery books?
The Salad Garden, Joy Larkcom; Food Lovers’ London, Jenny Linford; World Vegetables: Principles, Production and Nutritive Values, Vincent E. Rubatzky and Mas Yamaguchi.

3 What is your earliest food memory?
It probably involves cooked carrots, which I hate.

4 What is your favourite dish?
Spaghetti Bolognese, the quintessential comfort food that is easy to cook and happily feeds masses of guests.

5 What is your favourite national cuisine?
Currently, Bangladeshi.

6 What is your favourite restaurant?
Taj Mahal in Bridport, Dorset. Great service, reasonable prices, good food, and an owner who dotes on her customers.

7 Where did you eat your most memorable meal?
Breakfast in a village restaurant in El Salvador, Central America, c. 1976. Dirt floor, a dog milling around, a pig lying in the corner and chickens roosting on the table. The food was unremarkable.

8 What is your favourite kitchen gadget?
Potato peeler

9 What is the most useless kitchen gadget you’ve ever encountered?
Egg pick: ‘prevents boiled eggs from bursting and boiling out.’

10 What is your favourite food destination? (City or country)
London: a multicultural centre for immigrant shops, restaurants and allotments.

11 What is your favourite comfort food when you are on your own?

12 What is the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?
Taro leaves with the texture of broken glass.

13 Are there any foods you would never eat?
Any endangered plant or animal: fish is gradually coming off the menu.

14 What is the worst food trend of the moment?
Cookery programs that condone and even promote the bullying and humiliation of the participants.

15 What word would you most like to see banned from food writing?
‘Sustainable.’ What does it mean, really?

16 What is your guiltiest food pleasure?
Snickers bars

17 The professional achievement I am proudest of is…
Playing what I believe is a significant role in making chillies more a part of mainstream cooking.

18 If you were in charge of governmental food policy, the first thing you would do is…
Do away with farm subsidies.

19 If you had to stop eating meat, how would you cope?
Either kill myself, or start consuming my own body parts.

20 What would be your last meal, if you could choose it?
As much Maine lobster and melted butter as I could eat.


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by Sabrina Ghayour
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