Interview with Harlan Walker
Dublin Institute of Technology
Harlan Walker is one of the founding members of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery and edited the proceedings until 2003. He was born in 1924 in Birmingham, England, to an American mother and an English father. He spent some of his childhood in America in Pennsylvania and even went to school there for a short period. He joined the British Army in 1942 and after training was stationed in Italy. After the war, he studied French in Tours for a number of months before starting University in Oxford where he read – Politics, Philosophy and Economics. On graduating, he started work with J&P Coats, a Scottish firm that had a global monopoly on sewing thread, as sales manager. He worked in Naples and America with them. He married and had three children.
His interest in food came from joining the Buckland Club which was a dining club in Birmingham named after Frank Buckland who was a 19th Century scientist, who had the ambition to eat food of every animal in Britain. The dined twice a year around a different theme and it was when organising a Lao dinner that he got to know Alan Davidson. This led to a long lasting friendship and Harlan has been central to the organising and running of the Oxford Symposium from the outset until the early 2000s.
oral history, culinary history, oxford symposium