Alan Davidson, who counted himself a Scotsman, was born in 1924. He studied Classics at Queens College Oxford and during WWII served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
He joined the Foreign Office in 1948 and was sent to various posts abroad, including Washington, The Hague, Cairo, Tunis, Brussels and Vientiane. While in Tunis in the early 1960s he wrote, to satisfy the curiosity of his American wife Jane, a booklet on the local fish and other seafood. This later (1972) became a Penguin book, Mediterranean Seafood and he tasted the pleasure of authorship. The taste was enough to persuade him, while working as British Ambassador in Laos in the mid 1970s, to write a book on Fish and Fish Dishes of Laos and to start others on Seafood of South-east Asia and North Atlantic Seafood. At this stage he decided to quit the Diplomatic Service and become a full-time writer, and publisher. The new, literary career which he began in 1967 has lasted ever since, given continuity by his painstaking composition of the Oxford Companion to Food over the twenty-one years from 1978 to 1999, but including numerous other activities, many of them sparked off by the wider interest in food and food history which work on the big book inspired. In 1979 he and his wife were among the founders of an eccentric journal of food history, PPC (Petits Propos Culinaires) which they have edited and managed from then until the last issue of the second millennium.
In 1981 Davidson was co-founder of the annual Oxford Symposia on Food History, and remained co-chairman of it, with Dr. Theodore Zeldin, until 2001.
Although he has written mainly about food, his favourite book is the novel about NATO which he wrote while working at NATO headquarters around 1970. The Foreign Office forbade publication. He had it clandestinely and anonymously printed, but recently it was published openly.
60 years after he fell under the spell of the heroines of the Hollywood screwball comedies, Alan Davidson started a series of essays in which he was to pay tribute to the beautiful, chic, witty stars of the Golden Age of cinema.
Alan Davidson died unexpectedly on 2 December 2003.
1972 Glenfiddich gold medal: Mediterranean Seafood
1979 Glenfiddich gold medal: North Atlantic Seafood
1999 Crystal Whisk Award: The Oxford Companion to Food
2000 James Beard Award: The Oxford Companion to Food
Davidson, A., Mediterranean Seafood, 1972, 1981, 1987
Davidson, A., Something Quite Big, (Samizdat version 1974), 1993
Davidson, A., Fish and Fish Dishes of Laos, 1975, 2002/3
Davidson, A., Seafood of South-East Asia, 1977, 1978
Davidson, A. and Jane Davidson, Dumas on Food, 1978, 1979, 1987
Davidson, A., North Atlantic Seafood, London 1979, 1980, 1986, 1989
Davidson, A., On Fasting and Feasting (anthology), 1988
Davidson, A. and Charlotte Knox, Seafood: A Connoisseur’s Guide and Cookbook, London 1989
Davidson, A., A Kipper With My Tea: Selected Food Essays, 1989, 1999
Davidson, A. and Charlotte Knox, Seafood, London 1989
Davidson, A. and Charlotte Knox, Fruit, London 1991
Davidson, A., The Tio Pepe Guide to the Seafood of Spain & Portugal, Jerez, 1992
Davidson, A., The Oxford Companion to Food, 1999 – The Penguin Companion to Food, 2002
Davidson, A. and Helen Saberi, Trifle, 2001
Davidson, A. ed., The Wilder Shores of Gastronomy, 2002