Colin Spencer obituary


Regardless of his extraordinary vary of achievements as a author, painter, TV and radio presenter, and autobiographer, Colin Spencer, who has died aged 89, is greatest remembered as a meals author. He gained a number of awards through the years and served, at totally different occasions, as chairman and president of the Guild of Meals Writers. In 2002, Germaine Greer described him as “the best residing meals author”.

Even right here his extremely particular person artistic spirit inspired him to vary far past the slim confines that constrain different much less protean writers. Along with his 18 cookery books, he wrote a meals column within the Guardian for 14 years that, regardless of opening in 1980 with a promise of “no ideological lecturing”, would show to be avowedly political in tone and vary, coping with the moral features of agriculture and meals manufacturing, in addition to cookery, with equal ardour. For a lot of readers, he grew to become the guiding gentle in an more and more technological and sophisticated meals world. He was notably vehement in regards to the results of manufacturing facility farming and developments in GM crops.

He was an early advocate of vegetarianism, though not a vegetarian himself. “I do eat fish and sport,” he confessed in an interview with Robert Tewdwr Moss within the Unbiased in 1993. He wrote a number of vegetarian prepare dinner books, amongst them Gourmand Cooking for Vegetarians (1978), The New Vegetarian (1986) and Inexperienced Gastronomy (1996), in addition to a extremely regarded historical past of vegetarianism, The Heretic’s Feast (1993).

For British Meals: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of Historical past (2002), he gained the Michael Smith award and the Gourmand greatest culinary historical past e-book on the planet award, and obtained a particular commendation on the André Simon Memorial Fund awards.

In 1989 he was named Glenfiddich cookery author of the yr. As a broadcaster he contributed to collection together with Desk Speak, The Meals Programme, Girl’s Hour, Entrance Row, The Supersizers Eat … and Vegetarian Kitchen.

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Colin Spencer and the murals he painted at his residence in Islington, London. His drawings appeared in quite a few publications from the Nineteen Fifties onwards. {Photograph}: Peter Johns/The Guardian

Colin was born in Thornton Heath, south London, the son of Harry Spencer, a grasp builder, and his spouse, Gypsy (nee Heath). He wrote about his early years within the first a part of a deliberate three-volume autobiography, Backing Into Gentle: My Father’s Son (2013). By all accounts it was not a contented childhood. Colin was educated at Brighton faculty and Brighton Artwork Faculty, having determined early in life that he needed to be an artist. In 1950 he was known as up for nationwide service, and, though a pacifist (and a lifelong humanist), served within the Royal Military Medical Corps till 1952.

After a interval travelling round Europe he launched into a profession marked by its variety and productiveness. His drawings and tales appeared in publications together with the London Journal, Encounter, the Transatlantic Evaluation, the Occasions Literary Complement and the Observer – for the final of those he usually illustrated Katharine Whitehorn’s column. He drew artists and writers together with CP Snow, Evelyn Waugh and John Betjeman and in 1959 was commissioned by the London Journal to attract EM Forster at 80. Forster sat for him in Cambridge, and 10 years later Colin additionally painted an oil portrait of the author. The primary of his 9 novels, An Absurd Affair, set in Vienna, was revealed in 1961.

In 1957 he met and started an affair with the theatrical director and producer John Tasker, a relationship that he wrote about subsequently in Which of Us Two? The Story of a Love Affair, revealed in 1990. The e-book shone an sincere and generally painful gentle on one other theme of Spencer’s life, his bisexuality.

He had passionate affairs with each women and men, one thing he was fairly open about, at a time when such openness was uncommon to say the least. In addition to his autobiographical revelations, he additionally wrote Homosexuality: A Historical past (1995) and The Homosexual Kama Sutra (1997).

He married twice, first in 1959 to Gillian Chapman, an archaeologist, with whom he had a son, Jonathan. They had been divorced in 1969. In 2003 he married Claire Clifton, with whom he had lived for a number of years and with whom he co-authored The Faber E book of Meals, revealed in 1993. They later divorced.

Colin was held in as excessive esteem by his contemporaries as he was by his readers. He may very well be demanding, however was a person of nice allure. As a colleague he was beneficiant and forceful, not with no sure asperity when coping with folks he thought of fools. He was a high quality prepare dinner and a most hospitable host, with a penchant for full of life dialog, bringing the identical vigour to social gatherings as he did to life on the whole. He was the antithesis of up to date mental conventions, in search of to seek out connections between various features of human expertise slightly than limiting himself to a slim area of specialisation.

In actuality he was an excessive amount of of a nonconformist to be neatly contained inside any commonplace field. What stands out from all his works is the sheer power of the person, mixed with a passion of thoughts, and a wide-ranging curiosity.

He’s survived by Jonathan, and by three grandsons and a great-granddaughter.


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