Ben Arnold

Manchester Evening News

I started working at the Manchester Evening News in December, 2021, as its new food writer, tasked with telling the stories of our fine city through this lens. It has been a true privilege to do so.

It's been difficult to choose three stories, but I feel these best illustrate the diversity of the city and the people I have met in what has been one of the most gratifying years of my 20 or so in professional journalism. Spending time observing a shift at Manchester's oldest Jewish bakery was a joy. I will never forget the smell as I walked in, nor the taste of a perfect bagel still warm from the oven at 4am. It was an honour to meet the people who diligently continue the bakery's near century old traditions day in and day out, and hear about the sacrifices they have all made along the way. The entry included here, 'Family, faith and the best doughnuts', followed that visit. I also loved experiencing new-school Hong Kong cuisine with world-renowned illustrator Stanley Chow, and hearing how he overcame racism and discouragement from those who should have been nurturing his gift to become one of the country's most recognisable graphic artists. 'This is is a mad dish - the hidden gem Chinese lunch', was the fruit of that encounter. Perhaps most powerful, however, was discovering some of the most remarkable food in the city on my doorstep, and also experiencing first hand the fear and pain caused to the hospitality industry at large by the devastating cost of living crisis. Shining a light on the work of these people, and the uncompromising approach to the food of their homeland, was a truly humbling experience. That story is told in the entry included here: 'The glorious greasy spoon that sells some of Manchester's best home cooking'. The thread that runs through my entries is that they all use food to tell personal stories with particular themes - like family, culture, community, enterprise and migration. This is by design - they form part of an M.E.N content project called Belonging, which is aimed at increasing the amount of reporting we do on underrepresented communities. By using food as a jumping off point, I've been able to tell the stories of Mancunians with roots in Columbia, Iran, Goa and Mongolia, to name just a few countries. It means we're not only reflecting the amazing variety of lifestyles and cultures in the region, but reaching out across the city's communities so that they know their local newspaper is there for them. At the same time, we're introducing our readers to different cultures and places to eat that they may not have thought of - and supporting local business in the most difficult of times.