Marble determined where Patience Gray and the Belgian man she called “the Sculptor” – Norman Mommens – lived and worked. The food she found in those places formed the basis for Honey from a Weed, her autobiographical cookbook that is as relevant today as it was when first published more than 30 years ago.
Honey from a Weed wasn’t Gray’s first book; she co-wrote the 1950s classic Plats du Jour with Primrose Boyd but it is its name that is synonymous with Gray. The book charts the foods she cooked and ate while living in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades in Green and Apulia in Italy – remote and often barren locations where “eating with the seasons” wasn’t a trendy way of cooking but born of necessity.
It was in these places that she learned a lesson taught to her by her friend Irving Davis – that the very best cooking (and therefore eating) “is the result of a balance struck between frugality and liberality”. While she celebrates the joy of feasting, it is the frugality of the lean times which seems to inspire her most.
You can read Honey from a Weed from cover to cover, although it’s not written chronologically; or dip in and out as chapter (“Furred and feathered holocausts”) or subject (“Chopping and pounding”) catches your eye or appetite. This is by no means a “traditional” recipe book of starters, mains and puddings. Yes, there are recipes…
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