Obituary: Laura Mason, food historian

Laura Mason, who has died at 63, was an accomplished cook, a writer and an eminent food historian. Her most notable work, Traditional Foods of Britain, in collaboration with Catherine Brown, is an inventory of the origin and production of some 400 dishes from kippers to kale, Bath buns to Borrowdale tea bread.

Laura Mason

Laura Mason, who has died at 63, was an accomplished cook, a writer and an eminent food historian. Her most notable work, Traditional Foods of Britain, in collaboration with Catherine Brown, is an inventory of the origin and production of some 400 dishes from kippers to kale, Bath buns to Borrowdale tea bread.

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She grew up on a dairy farm in Wharfedale but spent her adult life in her beloved York. She studied home economics, but it was the origins and history of food that became her passion.

Two of her books, Sugar Plums and Sherbert and Sweets and Sweetshops cover the history of sugar and confectionary, whilst Farmhouse Cookery is a collection of writings and recipes gathered from the tenants of National Trust farms. She made countless contributions to other publications, was a founder member of Slow Food North Yorkshire and a regular contributor to the Leeds Food Symposium.

She began writing as a cook in the 1970s, and upon discovering that no educational institution was offering a course in the history of food, decided to pursue it as a hobby. 
In 1990, she became a freelance food historian, contributing to The Oxford Companion to Food, and York: Feeding a City, as well as her own publications. She also lectured for the Ministry of Agriculture and York City Art Gallery, amongst others, and broadcast on programmes as diverse as Woman’s Hour and Night Out.
Other work included sourcing produce for Sir Terence Conran’s Bluebird Store in London, and providing visual references for Honeyduke’s sweet shop in the third Harry Potter film.
Having lost her first husband, Ian Tomlin, to cancer in 1992, she leaves her second husband Derek Johnson, whom she married in 2012, and sisters Agnes and Ruth.