Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia by Patience Gray

Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia by Patience Gray

DeTnk Bookshelf

Within a few months of its first appearance in 1986 it was hailed as a modern classic. Fiona MacCarthy wrote in The Times that, the book is a large and grandiose life history, a passionate narrative of extremes of experience. Jeremy Round called Patience Gray the high priestess of cooking , whose book pushes the form of the cookery book as far as it can go. Angela Carter remarked that it was less a cookery book that a summing-up of the genre of the late-modern British cookery book.

The work has attracted a cult following in the United States, where passages have been read out at great length on the radio; and it has been anthologized by Paul Levy in The Penguin Book of Food and Drink. It was given a special award by the André Simon Book Prize committee in 1987. The author, Patience Gray, for 20 years shared her life with a sculptor, whose appetite for marble and sedimentary rocks took them to Tuscany, Catalonia, Naxos and Apulia. She wrote a passionate autobiographical cookbook, Mediterranean through and through and as compelling as a first class novel.

purchase a copy

"Wolfing it"
A review by Angela Carter for LRB

I bought my first cookery book in 1960, as part of my trousseau. It was called Plats du Jour, or Foreign Food by Patience Gray and Primrose Boyd, a Penguin paperback with a seductive pink jacket depicting a large family at table – evidently not a British family, for its members, shirt-sleeved, aproned, some of them children, were uncorking bottles, slicing bread, eagerly tucking their napkins under their chins, faces aglow with the certain knowledge their dinners would not disappoint, which was, in those days, extremely rare in this country.

My copy of Plats du Jour now gives forth a mellow smell of old paper; the pages are crisp, brown and dry as Melba toast. But it has outlasted the husband for whose pleasure I bought it by some eighteen years, proof positive of the old saw, ‘Kissin’ don’t last, cookin’ do.’ And now it is a historic object, a prototype of the late 20th-century British cookery book, a book to browse in as much as to cook from, its prose as elegant as its plentiful line-drawings. And, oh, that easy, graceful cosmopolitanism! ‘For anyone who has eaten a well-prepared Gulyas in one of the little restaurants on the Buda side of the Danube, overlooking the lantern-threaded bridges and the electric glitter of Pesth on a warm summer night before the war ...’ The nascent genre infected an entire generation with wanderlust.

Patience Gray helped to instigate the concept of the cookery book as literary form – part recipes, part travel book, part self-revelation, part art object. Now, some thirty years on, she has assembled what may be its culmination. Honey from a Weed is less a cookery book than a summing-up of the genre of the late modern British cookery book. It is a book like very few others, although it has some of the style of the 17th-century commonplace book, replete with recondite erudition and assembled on the principle of free association, as when Mrs Gray lists uses for goose fat. In a cassoulet. In soups. On bread. On toast. ‘On your chest, rubbed in in winter. On leather boots, if they squeak. On your hands if they are chapped.’

Above all, it is a book about a particular sensibility – a unique and pungent one – that manifests itself most characteristically in the kitchen. That is what the genre is all about. M.F.K. Fisher had pioneered the culinary autobiographical novel in the US years before the Penguin school of cookery writers found its greatest star in Elizabeth David in the late Fifties and early Sixties. For these writers, and for Patience Gray, cookery is what the open road was to Cobbett or the natural history of Selbourne to Gilbert White. There is, however, a difference: these are women to whom food is not an end in itself but a way of opening up the world. And, indeed, they are all women: this is, at the highest level, a female form.

continue reading at lrb.co.uk




Back

 


search

 

 

Quantcast



Archives

December 2017 (6)
November 2017 (15)
October 2017 (17)
September 2017 (14)
August 2017 (18)
July 2017 (10)
June 2017 (12)
May 2017 (12)
April 2017 (15)
March 2017 (15)
February 2017 (22)
January 2017 (13)
December 2016 (9)
November 2016 (14)
October 2016 (11)
September 2016 (19)
August 2016 (13)
July 2016 (11)
June 2016 (16)
May 2016 (19)
April 2016 (17)
March 2016 (9)
February 2016 (15)
January 2016 (14)
December 2015 (7)
November 2015 (15)
October 2015 (12)
September 2015 (5)
August 2015 (12)
July 2015 (16)
June 2015 (9)
May 2015 (15)
April 2015 (11)
March 2015 (16)
February 2015 (14)
January 2015 (14)
December 2014 (13)
November 2014 (15)
October 2014 (18)
September 2014 (14)
August 2014 (10)
July 2014 (14)
June 2014 (13)
May 2014 (22)
April 2014 (12)
March 2014 (12)
February 2014 (16)
January 2014 (19)
December 2013 (14)
November 2013 (175)
October 2013 (17)
September 2013 (20)
August 2013 (15)
July 2013 (6)
June 2013 (14)
May 2013 (17)
April 2013 (17)
March 2013 (16)
February 2013 (14)
January 2013 (16)
December 2012 (8)
November 2012 (20)
October 2012 (22)
September 2012 (17)
August 2012 (17)
July 2012 (22)
June 2012 (13)
May 2012 (20)
April 2012 (16)
March 2012 (28)
February 2012 (15)
January 2012 (17)
December 2011 (34)
November 2011 (24)
October 2011 (14)
September 2011 (39)
August 2011 (39)
July 2011 (35)
June 2011 (22)
May 2011 (22)
April 2011 (23)
March 2011 (18)
February 2011 (20)
January 2011 (37)
December 2010 (40)
November 2010 (41)
October 2010 (31)
September 2010 (96)
August 2010 (36)
July 2010 (35)
June 2010 (83)
May 2010 (167)
April 2010 (42)
March 2010 (68)
February 2010 (40)
January 2010 (66)
December 2009 (60)
November 2009 (38)
October 2009 (69)
September 2009 (66)
August 2009 (49)
July 2009 (55)
June 2009 (55)
May 2009 (65)
April 2009 (55)
March 2009 (68)
February 2009 (54)
January 2009 (62)
December 2008 (51)
November 2008 (43)
October 2008 (72)
September 2008 (89)
August 2008 (56)
July 2008 (77)
June 2008 (67)
May 2008 (65)
April 2008 (26)
March 2008 (22)