Any interview that includes a box of freshly made tortellini, a walk on Hampstead Heath, and a pint of midday cider is fine by us. Which is why, after spending a sunny morning with Mina Holland, we swiftly made it our mission to turn her into our best friend.
Writer, intrepid eater and editor of Guardian's Cook magazine, Mina has many a string to her bow. Her first foray into the food industry came during her time working at a London advertising firm, of which she quickly grew weary. Mina tells us, "I realised that the high point of my day was getting on the tube and burying my head in a novel. En route back home I'd pick up my food shopping and cook a meal, and I found more creative expression in those rituals than I ever did at the ad firm. I began to think of ways to combine my two greatest loves: reading and food."
After leaving the advertising firm, Mina began work as contributing editor at Observer Food Monthly, before finally landing the role as editor at Cook. In her time there, Mina has brought food writing back to life with a focus on culinary stories as well as a spring of fresh recipes. This year, she introduced the Cook residency; a weekly column that chronicles the industry's most exciting faces through personal, anecdotal prose: "Not cheffy types, but cooks with stories to tell."
I began to think of ways to combine my two greatest loves: reading and food.
Those featured include Rachel Roddy, the Hemsley sisters, Claire Ptak and, soon, Olia Hercules. "The food media has become largely dominated by recipes, which is great, but it's the stories behind those recipes that really interest me, which I think many publications have lost sight of," says Mina. "Food and stories sit hand-in-hand, and a dish feels much more charged with poignancy when you know who has cooked it and where it has come from."
The Edible Atlas presents itself like a novel; something to be savoured and read back to front. Mina has a true, almost nostalgic passion for words, and they lend themselves to food perfectly. A second book is now in the works, a set of oral histories about recipes passed down through the generations. "It comes back to stories, as always," says Mina. "When I was a child, going to a restaurant was this incredible treat and my mum's food seemed so mundane, boring even. But now my greatest indulgence is going home and having her cook for me. My culinary foundations are with her, and I think that's the case for a lot of people, so it's that human dimension to food that really inspired the book."
In her work as both a writer and editor, Mina is encouraging us to delve into dishes beyond just cooking and eating, proving that within food we can find some of the most profound stories of a person or place. "Food is universally relatable. We all eat!" She laughs and continues, "I'm incredibly proud to be part of the London food scene. It's one that's just getting better and better."