I’m know I’ve mentioned “Vittles” by Jonathan Nunn before. Ostensibly, it’s simply yet another Substack newsletter. But calling it a ‘newsletter’, is the very least descriptive of what it actually is.
“It” is everything that writing about ‘food’ should be — but so, so very often still isn’t — quotidian life, births, death, pain (physical and mental), politics, tears, fun shit, foreign things, sandwiches, familiar things you think you know but realise after reading that you actually didn’t, politics, city (mis-)planning & gentrification and the acid-rain drip, drip of money. All that and more…
It’s pretty much the best £30 you can spend. Anywhere. There are a select few other regular subscriptions that I happily pay to carry on reading but if I had to give up all bar one, Vittles would be the choice I’d fight to retain and scrabble around for the cash to cover this one. But if you’re unwaged or low paid, I think he’d cut you a deal. Or why not pay for a sub for someone you love?
Plus he’s got some great taste in clothes. I covet this red raincoat.
And this outfit when he collected the Food Writer of the Year award on behalf of the very wonderful Ruby Tandoh.
Part of the reason it’s so great is that he gives us his intro, then steps back and pushes forward and amplifies, the voices of others, some less familiar, some more well known, those more marginalised by mainstream writing (this is, thank the fuck, a completely Coren Free and ilk zone) or by societal norms. Who then in turn draw out other bits of great writing. It’s a real virtuous circle. In a very similar way to how Nigella is so willing to platform others without ego…
Recent titles have included:
This latest one is called ‘What is Kurdish food?’ with Melek Erdal (make sure you follow her on Instagram) talking about Salt Bae, palatable Kurdishness, and the invisibility of Kurdish restaurants & I learnt more from this quite short piece about the Kurds, their (literally) life & death struggles, their place(s) in the world (& London), their politics and food, than in any number of tedious, worthy, ‘thought pieces’ on Radio 4 or similar. That’s not bad for something that’s only approx. 5,000 words long (inc. the credits!)
Starting off with Jonathan talking about his definition of ‘Kurdishness’, ostensibly simply in terms of food, then, once he starts interviewing Melek, it blossoms, expands, shoots off like firecrackers into a country of the mind (as well as of geographical location, or rather, lack of).
“The most popular Kurdish restaurant in London is actually Nusr-et, and Salt Bae is the most famous Kurdish person on Earth. The second most popular Kurdish restaurant is probably your favourite ocakbaşı. Or maybe not. All of this depends really on how you define ‘Kurdish restaurant’ and ‘Kurdish food’. What does it mean to cook food from a country which doesn’t exist? “
That’s all I’ll leave here; if you want to read the rest of this piece and those other delights — and you so should — just give Vittles your money. What are you waiting for?
And finally? Finally, if you need to know “All of the Best-Value Restaurants in London, Six guides. 90 restaurants. Every postcode. Over 30 cuisines” then click here for another (older) Nunn meisterwerk.