Alan Davidson, food writer, former diplomat, dies at 79

`Companion to Food' is his best-known book

December 04, 2003|By Charles Perry | Charles Perry,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Alan Davidson, a food writer and the center of a worldwide network of culinary scholars, died Tuesday at London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital after losing consciousness at his home a few hours earlier. He was 79.

In recent years, he had suffered from various health problems, but on Nov. 5 he was able to accept the Dutch government's prestigious Erasmus Prize in Amsterdam.

In the United States, Mr. Davidson was best-known for The Oxford Companion to Food. The 900-page book, reprinted as The Penguin Companion to Food, took 18 years to write and presented an immense amount of information about ingredients, food preparation and the world's cuisines in a disarmingly light, whimsical tone.

Writing was Mr. Davidson's second career, taken up after a life as a diplomat. Around his neck he often wore the Order of St. Michael and St. George, a royal decoration regularly given to British diplomats upon retiring.

Mr. Davidson was born in what was then known as Londonderry, Northern Ireland. After serving in the Royal Navy during World War II, he studied the classics at Oxford and joined the British Foreign Service in 1948.

In 1951, while stationed in Washington, D.C., he married Jane Macatee, the daughter of American diplomat Robert Macatee.

There followed postings to the Netherlands, Egypt and Tunisia, and stints as head of the Central Department of the British Foreign Office and as part of the United Kingdom's delegation to NATO. His last diplomatic posting was to Laos, which he left in 1975 as Vientiane was falling to the communists.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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