This is the beautiful story of finding that less is more, of an extreme existence as near to the essential as possible. Patience Gray and her sculptor husband are doing what so many of us have fantasized about, living off the land, close to the soil (or in their case Tuscan rocks), surrounded by wild herbs, free of all the things we complain about in modern life - Water with chemicals! Traffic! Pollution! Out of season tomatoes! It is a beguiling read and it has a strong flow that pulls you in. The recipes are usually for the most meagre of treats, but we are convinced of their excellence, and of the author’s integrity.
Author and celebrity cook
I got this book when it first came out in 1986 and fell in love with the subsistence life that Gray documented so passionately as she journeyed around wild remote places in the southern Mediterranean with her sculptor partner. Her writing took me into a peasant life and culture that (at the time of publication) remained largely unchanged for centuries, with simple recipes that capture the heart of a traditional Mediterranean life.
Author and historian
Perhaps my favourite cookery book ever: discursive, erudite, amusing, delicious - it's a reflection on a near-vanished Mediterranean culture of poverty and community, fast and feast, without once becoming cloying or sentimental. As she follows her stonemason around quarries from Carrara to Naxos, she teaches you more about cuisine than fifty plump illustrated cookbooks together, and connects food to place, perfectly.
Writer, film maker
Like MFK Fisher, Gray is interested in everything that is tangential to food, life, the place of the table in our lives, context, friendships and, most importantly, good prose. I want to read the best writing in a food book or there is simply no point, food-writing is not an ancillary thing.
An adventure such as this, roughing it in small rural communities in Italy, Greece and Spain in the 60s and 70s, wouldn't be possible in the same way today. This is a book of courage, curiosity and thoughtfulness – and damn fine writing.
Screenwriter, filmmaker and author
This is a book I open at random and find delight -- and then after a while realize that I’ve been reading for an hour. It is transporting. Patience Gray is such a beautiful writer; in the genre of food memoir there is no one better.
As much a journal as a cookbook, I like the slightly random way in which the recipes are gathered. Mediterranean food is so often glamorised and dolled up. This is the real thing.
Ethnobotanist, forager and creator of Eat Weeds
I just like the way this book is written, like a gentle journey through the Italian countryside dotted with lovely recipes, many of them using wild edibles.
This book is to do with a spirit or sentiment, rustic cooking at its most romantic, it inspires, and I will always feel soothed by its lyrical prose.
Author and food historian
Yet another world again, and a fantastic evocation of a bohemian life in Mediterranean countries. Nice detail about vegetables, herbs and fruit.
Chef and Author
One of the best books written about food but it's more than that it teaches you to really think about food! Even the recipes read like a story!
This is an extraordinary book: more a journal of history, personal reminiscence and illustrations. A genre all of its own.
Writer and former chair of the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery
Enthrallingly eccentric, and brings back memories of staying with the author in Puglia during a drought and heat wave.
We had a copy in Cubelles, Spain to answer any queries that occured when shopping.
Author and lecturer
Writer and photographer
Food writer, former restaurateur, food educator
Editor, The Art of Eating
Food writer, editor
Food columnist of LA Times
Food writer and journalist
Food writer and editor
Cook and restaurateur
Bakery Director, King Arthur Flour Company
Cook and food writer
Chef and farmer
Executive Chef, The Grill Room at Capella Washington, D.C.
Food writer and editor
Owner and Founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School
Food writer and broadcaster