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Important region keeps its gentle quietness, says food writer Tessa Allingham

East Anglian food writer Tessa Allingham with one of her seven prized hens, whom she describes as a source 
of absolute joy. Photo: Contributed

East Anglian food writer Tessa Allingham with one of her seven prized hens, whom she describes as a source of absolute joy. Photo: Contributed


East Anglia is changing says local food writer Tessa Allingham, but it shouldn’t change too much she tells entertainment writer Wayne Savage.

Norfolk Table - One County, Twenty Chefs; one of several food themed books Tessa has worked on. Photo: Contributed Norfolk Table - One County, Twenty Chefs; one of several food themed books Tessa has worked on. Photo: Contributed

Tessa’s just back from walking the dogs at King’s Forest. They enjoy having space to run about. She enjoys having the space to think. “I love the sense of eerie peacefulness to it. I hardly meet anyone, which I like, which makes me sound very anti-social,” she laughs. “I use that time to plan and I write so many intros in my mind. There’s that connection between exercise and fresh air and creativity.”

An artisan and champion of local produce, cooking and hospitality, she is part of FEAST Publishing, the team behind Norfolk Table and the Suffolk and Essex Feast cookbooks which celebrate the relationships between chefs and their suppliers plus their favourites recipes.

Originally from Lancaster, her great grandfather was the architect and artist Cyril Power. Particularly known for his linocuts, he lived and worked in Bury St Edmunds where food writer Tessa now lives with her husband and three children. He had a close working relationship with the artist Sybil Andrews after whom the new upper school in the town is named.

Her husband, who runs his own business outside Watton, comes from a Norfolk farming family so she knew the region well before they upped sticks and quit London.

“He was doing this ridiculous commute from north London and it just made sense. I was taking a little bit of time out to bring up three small children. East Anglia’s a very lovely part of the world and I could build up a freelance career as a journalist. It was a massive shift. I settled in by being incredibly busy, which is the way I am always. The National Childbirth Trust was a lifeline, particularly for someone like me who didn’t know a soul in Bury St Edmunds. I spent some time as an antenatal teacher for it.”

Tessa - who also co-authored Un-Earthed, celebrating not only Suffolk’s brilliant food producers but also its artisans and makers - gets the same feeling at Walberswick, where the family holidays every summer.

“It’s wonderful... and that beach, off-season is fabulous. Even in the middle of August you can get onto Walberswick beach, walk 100 yards to your right towards Dunwich and it’s empty. Walberswick is a very special place to us, we’ve got family there and it’s somewhere I gravitate towards all the time.

“My husband’s birth mother was brought up there and we’ve family there. I love the fact it’s four miles down a road that leads nowhere but to the sea; that’s so unique, four miles of nothing. The children have grown up with their Walberswick friends so they immediately go into a different way of being; it’s all about being on their bikes. There’s this lovely ease to it and as a parent it means I can stop fretting.”

Tessa finds Mundford, where her in-laws’ have their farm, another extraordinary part of the region.

“It’s got that peculiar sandy environment. What an intriguing and mysterious, arid place it is. It’s this ancient, silent forest, open heathland, sandy free draining soil which is great for pigs, carrots, onions, sugar beet, potatoes... I’m always intrigued visiting there.”

I sense a new food book coming...

Tessa’s talked a lot about Suffolk’s quietness. The more she travels through Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and into Cambridgeshire, the more she feels there are still so many stories to tell.

“My East Anglian hell would be not having enough time to tell these stories. I think we need to shout more, but by the same token I can’t see Suffolk’s personality ever being brash; I wouldn’t like the word shouting to have connotations of showing off. I love that reservedness about it, that’s part of its personality.

“We’re this sort of lump of land jutting into the North Sea, we’ve got no motorways coming here, there’s almost a cut off quality about East Anglia - not to do it down. But I think that’s changing, a lot is being done to encourage tourism which is great.

“It’s important that we don’t lose that personality, that quietness though, because it’s very special and should be preserved...”

Minnie Moll, joint chief executive of the East of England Co-op, is one of the region’s most influential business leaders. As she is named as the new ambassador of sexual abuse charity Fresh Start – New Beginnings, she reveals her own story of childhood abuse, in her own words:

Two teenagers waved to passengers on a rail platform as they clung on to a train underneath overhead electricity cables in Essex, a court heard.

Fresh Start – New Beginnings has announced East of England Co-op joint chief executive Minnie Moll as their new ambassador.

Survivors of historic child sex abuse will be believed and listened to, a senior Suffolk detective has said as new data shows more people than ever before are coming forward.

A Suffolk Spitfire veteran has celebrated reaching his 101st birthday.

Over 70 MP’s have accused Theresa May of failing to intervene in the extradition case of a man from Newmarket.

An Ipswich primary school embarked on a world first video project yesterday, as pupils began filming for a virtual reality guided tour of the school.

A former East Anglian Daily Times journalist who in a long career also worked widely in Africa, New York and London has died at the age of 88.

We have had a mild but damp start to the week in Suffolk and north Essex with temperatures set to get cooler - but will we see any snow?

A man has been taken to hospital following a collision involving two lorries on the A14 in Felixstowe earlier today.

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