At the beginning of September 2009 Pam was diagnosed with Stage 4 bladder cancer. That afternoon we stumbled out of the urologist’s office into the unreal bustle of Central and headed straight for the Joel Robuchon café. There was only one possible response to cancer, Pam announced: cakes from the café and a bottle of champagne. Twenty months later, at Easter 2011, she died.
It is impossible for anyone else to share the experience of pain and fear that is cancer. One thing Pam did not do was deny. We got home with our cakes and champagne. I put on music so that we could dance in defiance of what she had just been told. And she called her family and closest friends to tell them the news. We cried.
The next day it all began. Tests in hospital. An immediate crisis. Chemotherapy. Major surgery. Tantalising hope that miraculously the chemotherapy might actually have vanquished the disease. The loss of that hope. The grinding slog through more chemotherapy to control it, no more than that. Her body would stabilise, then take another lurch downwards, until that moment when her oncologist said that there was nothing more he could do. She had always said that she wanted to die in London. Many of our friends were there and it was easier for her family to get there from the east coast of the US. Packing up took only a few days. It was all quite orderly and straightforward, our minds concentrated by the more urgent concern of what lay ahead. We flew back at the end of January 2011.
It can be all too easy to forget that there is much more to someone’s life than the cancer that kills them. Pam had two passions: food and teaching. These two passions come together in a small book she put together just before she was diagnosed, a guide to the wet markets of Hong Kong and the produce to be found in them: Roots, Fruits, Shoots and Leaves: A Guide to Shopping at Chinese Fresh Food Markets.
Food was central to Pam’s life. She could do fine dining, as she proved during her time as food and restaurant critic in Beijing, but it was fresh ingredients and the people who sold them in markets that she most enjoyed and it was curiosity about street food that always pulled her round the next corner in anticipation of finding something new. She believed firmly that it was possible to eat well, healthily, and inexpensively and that with just a little bit of encouragement everyone could be brought to understand that.
In her work in London and Beijing and in the cooking classes she ran she set out to dispel the fear that many people can feel abou