Honey From A Weed

fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, The Cyclades...

Author(s): Patince Gray (Author) Corinna Sargood (Ilustrated)
ISBN13/Barcode: 9781903018200
This book is perhaps the jewel in Prospect's crown. 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 Andre Simon Book Prize committee in 1987.

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Hard as it is to believe, Gray struggled to find a publisher for Honey From a Weed. This was, remember, years before the advent of Fergus Henderson, and his nose-to-tail eating; René Redzepi, the chef at Noma in Copenhagen was still at school. No one knew what to make of a book that included, among other things, a recipe for fox, one that had been given to Gray “by an old anarchist in Carrara” (the carcass, she notes, must be kept in running water for three days before it may be cooked). In 1986,
however, it was finally taken on by Alan Davidson, the food historian who founded the tiny Prospect Books.

The reception to its publication was in the main positive, even a little rhapsodic. Angela Carter, for instance, acclaimed it as “unique and pungent… a baroque monument”. But others were more wary. In her review, the biographer Fiona MacCarthy noted the book’s “quality of lunatic conviction”. And it’s true: it does have such a quality. Yes, there are perfectly straightforward recipes among its pages for wild boar and fish soup, risotto and pasta; if you want to know how to marinate sardines or what to do with cuttlefish, Gray will tell you. But it is the bitter weeds – among them comfrey, sorrel, broomrape, fat-hen and tassel hyacinth – on which Gray and Mommens feasted every other night that she eulogises, making these modest, wild plants sound both delicious and life-giving: a kind of holy medicine. Still, what looked like madness yesterday may seem utterly sane the next. As we move into an increasingly uncertain future – a report by leading academics recently suggested that Britain is “sleepwalking” into post-Brexit food insecurity – the message of Honey From a Weed, by turns ascetic and celebratory, may come to seem more powerful still. When she wrote it, Gray knew that she was recording the past, rescuing “a few strands” from a former way of life like some social anthropologist out in the field. What she can’t have known then is that her book would also be shot through with a pungent taste of the future.

Additional Information

ISBN13/Barcode 9781903018200
ISBN10 190301820X
Author Patince Gray (Author) Corinna Sargood (Ilustrated)
Binding Paperback
Date Published 20 Dec 2001
Frequency No
Report Date N/A
Pages 375
Publisher Prospect Books

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