World Gourmand Cookbook Awards: Di Murrell

Di Murrell reports: ‘I am pleased to report that I am the 2020 UK winner of World Gourmand Cookbook Awards for Food Tourism for my book A Foodie Afloat.

‘A Foodie Afloat is self-published. All the pre-publishing work including illustrations and cover design was done by just four people – me, the author; husband Tam who managed all the technicalities of turning my words into a book, dear friend and artist Kathleen Kaddick best known for her landscapes and work for the Woodland Trust whose illustrations and bold cover design bring an added dimension, and friend Kay Gale, also a member of GFW, who did the editing. Of course there are the odd glitches but hopefully not too obvious to the ordinary reader. More importantly WGFA did not choose to place “AFA” in their special “self-published” category but chose to let it stand on its own merits in the “food tourism” section.

‘Hopefully, my small success will spur any members having difficulty finding a publisher but with sufficient faith in their own work to consider the self-publishing route as an option. 

‘“Madame ‘Tosca’ still in her pinny, steps off her loaded barge into the darkness of the tunnel towpath, hurries back along the 40 or so metres that separates our craft and hands up a plate upon which rests two squares of sponge cake full of juicy mirabelle plums, just baked and still headily warm. We thank her profusely and in the gloom of our wheelhouse proceed to scoff the lot. When, an hour or so later, we emerge from the tunnel, they pull over and let us go by. As we slide past I lean across, hand back their plate, and wish them ‘bonne route’.”

'That’s a snippet from my book A Foodie Afloat – an account of a cook’s journey through France on her barge. Full of such small events and chance encounters, it’s a tale of slow boats and slow food where dinner often depends upon gifts from a lock-keeper’s garden, an angler’s creel, or whatever can be foraged along the canal bank. Weeks of meandering along quiet canals and simple living are juxtaposed with stops, mooring in the centre of cities, where the sheer abundance on display in ‘les halles’ overwhelms the senses. 

‘I wanted my book to be a gentle culinary adventure; one that with encouragement, my readers might want try for themselves. For the cook especially, pottering through France by water is a wonderful way to discover the foods of different regions and to find, forage and cook whatever happens to be available en route.’