“Oh, come on now,” I ventured, “the uber-posh columnist, foodie writer with a contact book to die for. You must be out dozens of…”
“I promise you, I’m not. Nowadays, it’s less, far less. I actually stopped shooting for ages. When my friends were about 16 – doing whatever teenage boys do in London – I was always stuck in a cold field with a lot of my father’s mates, which was always nice but I would always rather have been after birds of a different variety. I stopped for 10-15 years. I just started again a couple of years ago because it’s the social aspect for me as much as the sport now. Outside all day, seeing your friends, having a drink, having a nice lunch and, of course, the sport. At the moment it is only four or five days, but days I love. I suppose, having done it from the age of seven, with a little .410, then I’d have shot probably 10-15 years solidly and it was great but I would stand there, praying the first bird wasn’t going to go over me – and I’d miss it, with everyone watching; you know, that first shot and you’ve fired impotently into the air and everyone’s thinking ‘what a knob…’
“I’ve been lucky enough to shoot at some incredible places, but what I really love is staying over; you know, the house party thing. I absolutely love it. For me the après shoot, or whatever it is, and the night before it all is great. I love that thing where you come back cold and wet and muddy and it’s getting dark when you get back to the place that you’re staying. Everyone goes and has a bath and gets dressed up for dinner and it really feels like you’ve done something all day, it’s so not like a day at the office; it brings you all together.
“Having said all that, honestly, the really good ones like at Garrowby, they’re pretty much wasted on me. They are so high those birds but I just love watching the really good shots like my father, Nicholas Soames or the Duke of Marlborough; this just sounds like name dropping but it’s not, it’s just some of the people I’ve seen shooting. My friend, Sir David Tang, he’s had a lot of practice and hits some pretty spectacular birds some times. I remember seeing Guy Roxburgh at Garrowby once… another amazing shot. Watching a really good shot is spectacular, they make it look so easy.”
“A little bird told me you missed out on a trip recently,” I tentatively asked.
“Oh, don’t,” he groaned. “I was invited partridge shooting in Spain but I had to cancel it because I’m doing Food Glorious Food. Of course, I’m delighted about the show, but apparently the partridges in Spain are fantastic, amazing food and all the rest of it, but I had to cancel because we were filming that weekend. These things happen.”
The television series comes hot on the heels of Tom’s most recent cookbook, Let’s Eat: Recipes From My Kitchen Notebook.
“So, are the sales going well?” I asked.
“Great so far, but I don’t think I’ll be troubling that lady with all the bondage stuff just yet.”
“I’m sorry, Tom,” I spluttered.
“Oh, come on,” he replied, “what’s it called, Fifty Shades of Whatsit. My book’s selling certainly; it’s a book that I’m proud of. It’s just doing something I’ve found and I love, food writing. I love food; I love eating and fell into it, working with Tatler initially. I thought I would go for Tatler, with my name, rather than something like Socialist Worker, and I just sort of took it from there. It is genius; I’m so lucky, you get to travel around the country doing what you love. Having grown up in the countryside, mostly in Wiltshire, you know about where food comes from, so with shooting, writing about food… it all seems to fit.”
Let’s Eat: Recipes From My Kitchen Notebook (published by Pavilion Books) is out now.
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