I grew up in a Glasgow tenement and was always keen to cook. My mother encouraged me. There were grannies, too, who let me mess about in their kitchens. One lived in a cramped tenement kitchen in Glasgow’s East End, while the other lived in an East coast fishing village where fish and shellfish - fresh from the boats - arrived daily. I spent summer holidays fishing from sandbanks and rummaging the beach for crabs and whelks. My first catering job (aged 16) was in a Clydeside dockers' canteen, filling crisp Glasgow rolls with fried eggs and bacon to start the day.
Later, there were other goals which took me into teaching catering and then into researching the potential of British Cookery at Strathclyde University’s Scottish Hotel School. For a while I was also a professional chef in hotels, one post taking me to the Loch Torridon Hotel in Wester Ross, which is where I first met the crofters Alistair and Maggie.
Writing about food in Scotland began when a publisher heard me talking about it on a radio programme. He wrote to say that I sounded so enthusiastic he was sure I could write a book. Scottish Regional Recipes was published in 1981 and the same year I began writing for The Herald in Glasgow, and a few years later became their food correspondent, writing weekly columns – including The Business of Food – for the next twenty years.
In between there have been other books. Also twelve years as restaurant critic for the Scottish Field. In the late 1990s, I joined Grampian and STV’s Scotland’s Larder, as co-presenter (with Derek Cooper), a series which celebrated Scotland’s traditional foods and artisanal products. Over the years there have been three Glenfiddich Food Writing Awards as well as the Guild of Food Writers’ Food Journalist of the Year in 2001. I am also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, as well as a member of Scottish Pen International and the Society of Authors.
In the last few years I’ve had a lot of fun with my grandchildren, fishing and foraging for shellfish and seaweed on Scottish beaches - they live on a Hebridean island. It was only a matter of time before this developed into a full-time research project leading to a book on the history and origins of Scotland’s remarkable seafood assets, a grateful celebration of the ocean’s bounty.