What do Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Lady and the Tramp have in common? Both use food in subtle ways to immerse us in their stories and help us make sense of fictitious worlds - from jumping chocolate frogs to kissing over spaghetti.
The same is true for many novels, where food can be an integral part of building characters, plots, even entire worlds. Graihagh Jackson speaks to three world-acclaimed writers – two authors and one Nollywood script writer and film director - to find out how and why they employ food in their work.
How do you create make-believe foods for a science fiction world, yet still imbue them with meanings that real world listeners will understand? When you’re trying to appeal to multiple audiences and cultures, how do you stop your food references getting lost in translation? And can food be used to highlight or send subtle messages about subjects that are traditionally seen as taboo?
(Picture: Artistic depiction of a woman lying on top of an orange. Credit: Getty Images/BBC)
What's climate change doing to cows?
Australia's bushfires are thought to have killed more than one billion animals, and although many of the country's wild species have been worst affected thousands of livestock have also died, some of them buried in mass graves.
The severe droughts that partly fuelled the flames have been affecting cattle in Australia for several years, destroying many of their grazing lands - a vital source of nutrition. There are also signs that the extreme heat in some parts of the country could even be making these animals infertile. Graihagh Jackson speaks to Gundula Rhoades, a livestock vet from New South Wales, to find out more.
We also hear about the impact of climate change from two other farm vets. Edwin Chelule, from Nairobi, Kenya, says droughts there have been making dairy cows less productive, destroying families' livelihoods. And Emily Gascoigne, a sheep expert from the south west of England, tells us some disease patterns have been changing.
All three work in an industry that's a big part of the climate change problem – livestock are responsible for almost 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions - so can they use their medical expertise and close relationship with farmers to bring change?
(Picture: A farmer standing near the bones of a dead cow in a drought-affected paddock in New South Wales, Australia. Credit: Getty/BBC)
Asma Khan: My life in five dishes
When Asma Khan was born it was said her mother cried, but not tears of joy. As a second daughter born in 1960s India, Asma felt she was a disappointment, even a burden, because she could not inherit and would cost her family a fortune in dowries. But she went on to defy those low expectations and open one of London’s most sought-after restaurants.
Asma tells us how she could barely boil an egg when she first got married and moved to England, about the intense loneliness she felt so far from home, and how the smell of paratha convinced her that the only way to recover was to learn how to cook.
The Darjeeling Express founder describes the restaurant’s humble beginnings as a supper club in her London flat, why it has always had an all-female kitchen, and her plans to use food to empower female refugees and prostitutes.
(Picture: Asma Khan with a pakora and chutney. Credit: BBC)
Eat the year
New Year's resolutions about food often involve cutting down on something, or giving something up, but how about committing to trying something new for the next 12 months? How much harder is it, and what do we learn about ourselves along the way?
Graihagh Jackson meets three women who went to extraordinary lengths in search of change: a working mum who cooked a different meal every day of the year to escape a cooking rut; a writer who made her own salt from seawater and learned how to butcher a sheep as part of a pledge to only eat non-processed foods; and a blogger who logged and photographed everything she ate for 365 days.
We hear how difficult, expensive and exhausting the challenges were, but also how they brought each of these women closer to their families and friends, as well as their food.
(Picture: A tree through four seasons. Credit: Getty/BBC)
Samin Nosrat: My life in five dishes
The award-winning star of Netflix series 'Salt, Fat, Acid Heat' and author of the best-selling cookbook of the same name tells us about her life through five of her most memorable dishes.
The Iranian-American writer and cook has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame in the last few years, but has struggled to come to terms with that success and says she still feels like an impostor and outsider. She very nearly took a completely different career path - she tells Emily Thomas that her dream was always to be a poet until a magical experience at a fine-dining restaurant changed everything.
Even now, though, she doesn't aspire to run a restaurant or establish a culinary empire - she doesn't like the person she becomes when put in charge of a team of chefs.
This episode was recorded at The Cookery School at Little Portland Street and was first broadcast on 30 May 2019.
(Picture: Samin Nosrat. Credit: BBC)