When The Complete History of Birmingham Gastronomy is written, a footnote may explain that in the distant year of 2012 a journalist with the Birmingham Post (by then, available for download directly into your brain) bagged a food writing award.
It will be recorded that one Richard McComb was chuffed to bits to pick up the Michael Smith Award for Work on British Food, bestowed by the Guild of Food Writers.
In 2112, the Post’s restaurant critic will hail 2012 a break-through year for a city hitherto famed for its £5.99 baltis, Pukka Pies and a defunct brown sauce industry. “For it was in that year,” the critic will write, “in that far-away time, well before Birmingham had the first of its dozen three Michelin star restaurants, that the New York Times decreed the city was one of the Top 20 ‘must-see’ global destinations, based on its culinary offering.
“It was in the same year that McComb scooped a national award for writing about British food. Today, Birmingham journalists win the prize every year but back in 2012 most people didn’t know the city and its rural hinterland had any food, let alone anyone writing about it.”
Am I over-egging it? Probably, but not an awful lot.
Last week, as many of you will be tired of hearing, I did rather well at the Guild of Food Writers’ annual awards bash. I had been shortlisted before and behaved ungallantly when I didn’t win, brushing off a handshake from a well-known restaurant reviewer who thought I was heading to the stage as a winner, when I was in fact lumbering towards the exit door. I thought I owed it to Brum’s underdog reputation to be spiky.
This time, I vowed to learn from my mistakes. I limited myself to less than a dozen glasses of wine at the pre-awards reception (partly due, it must be said, to a lack of stamina after a long lunch at The Connaught). The event was compered by Bill Buckley, off the telly (Google him and you’ll go “Oh, yes, him”), who did a great job at food industry crowd control. (Note to the bloke from Radio 4 with the floppy hair: don’t bother coming to an awards do if you are going to talk all the way through it. A plucky woman finally glared at the offender and he shut up. I love that woman.)
When it came to the section I was up in, I smiled benevolently with that “it’s fine, really it’s fine, I’m just pleased to be here” look.
Not that anyone knew who I was. Buckley read out the other two shortlisted writers and came to me last.
The other two had submitted images of their books. I sent in a mugshot.
Inside Fishmongers’ Hall, at London Bridge, my face looked down from the giant screen like a cross between a North Korean dictator and a local TV weatherman. Buckley told the assembled masses one judge liked Richard’s writing because of “that kind of internal friction of a gruff man battling his natural enthusiasm and admiration”.
“Is Richard here?” said Buckley. I stuck my hand up, giving vent to my enthusiasm, even as my gruffness said: “Ignore him.”
“Has anyone ever said that about you before, Richard?” asked Buckley.