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Reporters on the Job

Mind Your Peas and Cheeses: When Britain makes it into the top ranks of places to find a first-rate meal, it's news. So like any responsible correspondent, Mark Rice-Oxley picked up the phone - and reserved a table at Tom Aikens.

Many peas and cheeses later, Mark says he now sees eating in a completely different light (page 1).

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After World War II, Mark says, Britain took a production-line approach to food, losing considerable taste in the process. "At the restaurant, I was struck by how even a pea could taste different depending on how it was cooked," Mark says. "By the time we got to the cheese section of the meal, I was overwhelmed."

The restaurant staff gave Mark plenty of friendly guidance - "Sir is eating this, and this is why" - as they took him through the fixed-menu lunch.

"The guy who talked me through the cheese knew more about cheese than I know about anything," Mark says. "I used to think that spending a lot on a meal was somehow misguided. But I came out thinking that it was an education - an experience much like the opera or ballet. You don't go very often, but when you do, you learn something."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor