The Man Who Ate Everything Review: Filling Facts

March 17, 2010 by  
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THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING: Wednesday 17th March, BBC4, 9pm ALERT ME

Not a shock-doc about some sickeningly obese greedy-guts from Oldham, The Man Who Ate Everything is a gentle journey through foodie bible The Oxford Companion to Food.

The Companion is an encyclopedia of all things edible, some 2,650 entries covering everything from aardvark to zucchini. All, with just a little bit of help, written and compiled by one man – Alan Davidson.

For many chefs his tome has become a must-have kitchen item, as essential as a fork. Fans hold a festival of the book’s food philosophy every year and one calls it “the greatest book in the English language?.

Ever wanted to know the best way to prepare the lotus fruit, star anise or tree fungus and what they taste like? Then the Companion can tell you. But Davidson was not some food snob or gourmet genius, things like Spam and lollipops are given equal weight.

Floppy-haired art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon presents the story of how the guide came to be and the eccentric Englishman behind it.

He visits Davidson’s friends, family and collegues to find out more about the man as well as visiting Laos in south east Asia, where the author was first inspired to write. Graham-Dixon can be a bit gushing about the book and there are a few pointless asides like when the presenter goes and gets a silk shirt made ‘just like Davidson’s’. Better are the extracts from the book which really give you a flavour of Davidson’s informed but fun style.

For someone not that interested in cuisine and having never heard of the book or the man, I found the programme thoroughly filling. It avoided being too ‘foodie’, like the book itself, and anyone with a taste for knowledge will like the stories it serves up.