Introducing: Esquire's December Issue

Esquire editor-in-chief Alex Bilmes introduces our food and drink special

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Hard to believe now, in the thick, bubbling stew of the gastro revolution, but until recently Britain was seen as a culinary calamity: the land that tastebuds forgot. Even visiting Americans used to laugh at our food; imagine what the French and Italians thought.

Eating out, back then, was a choice between starchy or stodgy. There were plush fine dining establishments, fussy and formal, for rich people and special occasions; there were curry houses, carveries, chip shops, greasy spoons and pub sandwiches with curled corners under glass for everyone else. Food wasn't light, or fresh, or spicy, or complicated, or sexy, or modern. It was tepid, brown and served with a sneer or a sigh.

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At home the situation was worse. We didn't cook well and, as a result, we didn't eat well. Men barely cooked at all, unless professionally. On the rare and inconvenient occasions when their wives and mothers disappeared for a few days (to give birth, or something equally selfish) they left pre-prepared dishes in the fridge, with strict instructions on how to heat them up – "1. Turn on oven…" – and a detailed map showing how to get from armchair to kitchen. Otherwise their menfolk would be left to waste away on a diet of beef crisps and Kestrel lager.

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There have been many changes to lifestyles and leisure pursuits since I started out in men's magazines: Technology. Fitness. Manscaping. But the British food revolution has supplied the most purely joyful transformation to the way us British men live.

From a standing start – in my twenties I too found the stress of boiling a kettle on my own simply too much to bear – I and almost every man I know have become interested in and knowledgeable about food: cooking it ourselves, and eating other people's.

The December issue of Esquire, then, is a food and drink special, a celebration of the best of British cooking and a chance for us to publish some pungent, nourishing writing on eating and drinking.

Tim Lewis, an award-winning journalist and also officially the second best porridge maker in London, goes to Scotland to test his oats against the best in the world for the prize of the Golden Spurtle. (You think I'm making this up.) Chasing his own obsession, Will Self goes to Buxton to ask who put the fizz in the mineral water business. Esquire's in-house chef-patron, Mark Hix, sails to Ireland to try to catch his supper on a line. Tom Barber, our globetrotting travel correspondent, offers his top ten far-flung foodie destinations. Ben Mitchell meets the most important restaurateur in the country: Fergus Henderson, of St John, the place that more than any other defined a new, native British cooking. And we profile Adam Hyman, the most connected man in British hospitality and fully a creature of his age. Finally, any man who doesn't know his Aeropress from his Wagyu should turn straight to Max Olesker's gourmet glossary, an only slightly snarky take on contemporary food snobbery.

Before I go (it's almost lunchtime), a word about Let's Eat Meat, the cookbook we extract here. Its author, Tom Parker Bowles is, among many other things, Esquire's food editor and a friend of mine. This means I'm lucky enough to be cooked for by him on a fairly regular basis. He'll never admit it himself but as well as being a terrific writer he is also a seriously talented cook and a true gastronaut, forever embarking on far flung adventures, seeking out new dishes to bring back to his kitchen – and ultimately everyone else's. My own copy of his previous cookbook, Let's Eat, is sticky and stained and scorched by frequent use. Now he brings us his new one. It's all delicious, but the tacos al carbon are ridiculously good.

One last thing: as you will be able to see from his photo on the contributors page of the magazine, it would be hard to find a more physically decorous cook than Tom. And we haven't managed it. But since the ungrateful wretch turned down my kind offer of a steamy photo shoot in a state of considerable undress, we had to look elsewhere. And a young Barbadian lady – the name escapes me but I believe you can find photos of her elsewhere on the Internet – was good enough to step in, offering not only to pose for sexy snaps, but also her own take on some of the staples of Caribbean cuisine. Plus cocktails, because she's that kind of gal. See, Tom? That's ten extra pages you could have had right there, if only you'd whipped off the pinny…

Buy the September issue in shops today or take out a subscription to the print edition. You can also download our new enhanced digital edition designed especially for iPad.