Fasting and Feasting - The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman
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|Fasting and Feasting - The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: The life of a fascinating woman is conjured up in smells, colours and taste by Adam Federman. A love letter to a woman whose passion for food makes this a book full of a fascinating life filled with delicious flavours.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: June 2017|
|Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing Co|
|External links: Author's website|
For more than thirty years, Patience Gray - author of the celebrated cookbook Honey from a Weed - lived in a remote area of Puglia in southernmost Italy. She lived without electricity, modern plumbing, or a telephone, grew much of her own food, and gathered and ate wild plants alongside her neighbours in this economically impoverished region. She was fond of saying that she wrote only for herself and her friends, yet her growing reputation brought a steady stream of international visitors to her door. This simple and isolated life she chose for herself may help explain her relative obscurity when compared to the other great food writers of her time: M F K Fisher, Elizabeth David, and Julia Child. So it is not surprising that when Gray died in 2005, the BBC described her as an almost forgotten culinary star. Yet her influence, particularly among chefs and other food writers, has had a lasting and profound effect on the way we view and celebrate good food and regional cuisines. Gray's prescience was unrivalled: she wrote about what today we would call the Slow Food movement - from foraging to eating locally - long before it became part of the cultural mainstream.
I hadn't heard of Patience Gray. Her definitive cookery book, Honey From A Weed is incredibly well reviewed online, and well known food writer (and my personal favourite) Nigel Slater says There is no food book that appeals to me more...The text is staggeringly beautiful...The Recipes astonishing. It's clear that Patience Gray was a woman of some considerable talents, but one who seems to be forgotten as one of the first people to introduce Mediterranean food to the people of post-war Britain. This wasn't always the case though – her first book, Plats Du Jour written with Primrose Boyd in 1957, guided cooks towards French and continental cookery and sold more than 50,000 copies in its first year, far more than similar writers back then (such as Elizabeth David) sold. This book was the prompt which Patience needed to move into journalism full time, and her long and varied career is explored in fascinating detail by author Adam Federman, from childhood in 1930's Britain through to a late-in-the-day career renaissance with the publishing of Honey From a Weed in 1986. He draws together the details of her life into a work which celebrates both the woman and her writings – the descriptions Patience used to describe the wildlife of her adopted home in Italy sweeping the reader into a world filled with colour, flavour and sunshine.
Throughout the pages it's made very clear that Patience was a remarkable woman – and her writings truly ahead of their time, not only in terms of the foods she was recommending, but in the depiction of a self sufficient, peasant lifestyle – living off the land and eating that which could be raised, grown or caught in the local area. Considering her writings were being released at a time when convenience food was very much in trend, it's rather remarkable. Adding to that, Patience was a food writer rather than a chef – choosing to not bother with quantities or specifics, but instead guiding the reader into discovering wonderful tastes and cuisines for themselves. In a similar way, through gently illuminating and leading the reader through a life that was varied, fascinating and wholly original, author Adam Federman guides the reader into getting to know a truly remarkable woman – and one whose name will surely be rather better known as a results of this compelling volume. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
For further reading I recommend Appetite by Nigel Slater. A favourite writer of mine, not just due to his astonishingly good recipes – much like Patience Gray he uses intelligent writing and humour to truly bring food to life for the reader with down-to-earth charm and descriptions that make one's mouth water.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Fasting and Feasting - The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman at Amazon.com.
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