December 22, 2014
Helping people enjoy life
By Michael Soltys
Impossible to convey the importance of Dereck Howard Nelson Foster’s work as our food and wine critic because it did not lie in any big news scoop, like most famous journalists, but in bringing small joys everyday to countless readers throughout four decades. Those small joys could take various forms — providing a recipe, praising some Malbec variant or recommending a restaurant — but whatever it was, surprisingly many people remembered it as something which gave a lift to their day and improved their enjoyment of life.
Dereck helped people enjoy life because he was so very good at it himself (although he also had his private griefs). Even in the 21st century, living to one’s 83rd year rates as a pretty good innings but it should be considered almost record longevity considering his line of work — frequent visits to restaurants in which he was professionally obliged to order all three courses while equally having to keep up with the numerous mutations of Argentina’s formidable wine production. Thus a long life well lived.
Always one of the three most read items in the newspaper, the value of his work was rarely challenged but I can remember one stage when there was a crackdown on unpaid advertising and Dereck was asked to fall into line. His response was to ask the editor if he would prefer him to write: “I had this very nice little red wine last weekend but I can’t tell you what it was called or otherwise it would be a chivo.” The point was taken.
Much more recently his disappearance from the newspaper over the last year or so prompted some negative speculation (both expressed and unspoken) over the reasons and we hope that this sad news confirms that those reasons were never anything other than Dereck’s battle with health problems which he has now finally lost. Some self-criticism is in order for not having explained this discontinuation at the time but not only are health problems a delicate and personal matter — there was also Dereck’s iron determination to return some day when his strength permitted and we never wanted to close the door on our gastronomic legend.