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Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  130 ratings  ·  25 reviews
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 neighbors in this economically impoverished region. She was fond of saying that she w ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 8th 2017 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company (first published June 2nd 2017)
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Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was completely unprepared for what a wonderful read this would be. I had never heard of Patience Gray until I came across an article recently about her. It intrigued me enough to buy this book and I am so incredibly glad I did. In Patience Gray I found a kindred wild spirit, and her story an inspiration on how to live an authentic life. She was genuine to the core, and lived her life as such.
Her knowledge of food also far surpassed your typical recipe writing. Throughout her life she took th
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
What an interesting life, and a piece of food writing history that I wasn't aware of. Gray sounds like a real piece of work, and to Federman's credit he lets you read between the lines when it comes to her persona and never pushes an opinion. In a way that light touch makes this a flatter biography than it could have been, but I like the room for ambiguity around what kind of person she was as reflected by the truly hardcore lifestyle she and her partner adopted in the name of art and authentici ...more
Apr 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I was really excited to read this book when I read the description for it... but as soon as I opened it I knew it was not going to be an easy read. I definitely am so interested in Patience Gray; she is a fascinating person and definitely deserving of acclaim and having a biography written about her. I don't think Federman did the best job in making it readable, though. He put in too much extraneous information--too many names... it seemed more like a thesis than a biography to read for pleasure ...more
Linda Zuckerman
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Patience Gray is perhaps one of the most fastinating people I have never heard of. She lived the simple lifestyle even before hippies came to it. The book itself namedrops quite a bit and it wasn’t until the very end that I was familiar with some of the context. However, it makes me want to read Patience Gray’s original food books, Plat du Jour and Honey from a Weed.
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a biography of the elusive Patience Gray. She was born in England, raised two kids as a single mother (with a lot of help from her own mother) during and after WWII,. In the 1950s she was part of the arts and literature scene: she sold some designs for textiles and wall paper, taught at an art school, and even wrote for the Observer. In 1958 she met Norman Mommens, and the two of them began a life together. Norman was a sculptor and in the early 1960s they began to explore places to live ...more
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the most refreshing book I've read in a long time. Not being a a person who follows food writing, I was delighted by the life and values of Patience Gray. She started a movement that in my opinion continues today with organic gardening, slow food and a true connection to the land. I am looking forward to reading Honey from a Weed, which I hope will be more available, than it is now. A toast. ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Patience Gray, whose work I have not read, comes across here as sometimes brilliant, but also difficult and distant. Despite careful research, the biographer cannot seem to bring her to life--perhaps because she did not, in the end, wish to be known except among her chosen intimates.
Jun 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: food-writing
Although an interesting book, it was not what I expected. I was hoping for more connections to culinary arts.
Nicola Pierce
I had never heard of her at all but after I ordered Artemis Cooper's biography Elizabeth David online, the Patrience Gray biography popped up as a prompt that I duly responded to. The blurb excited me and I couldn't wait to start it. However, shortly after I did, I became impatient to finish it. I'm trying to diagnose the problem. Well, alright, so Patience Gray isn't very likeable but then seems to mellow out in her twilight years, hosting impromptu dinner parties with husband Norma. And she wo ...more
Melina Watts
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Honey from a Weed," by Patience Gray is a long time favorite, so I was so happy to hear that Federman had written a bio. I'm only half way through, but am at "the good part" in terms of learning who she was when she birthed that book: she's met The Sculptor and now I will find out how they made the daring decision to bail on England and move to the Mediterranean, I hope to learn who the local people were who inspired her archaic wild recipes, and see into the day to day life of this dreamy art ...more
Jill Blevins
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Some biographies are written as novels, some are written as a PhD thesis; this one is more in the latter category. Although I'm interested in women's history and how pioneers in their fields proceed along their ground-breaking journeys, sometimes it's not the facts and the names and the dates, but the ideas and the mistakes and the thoughts that you really crave. This was so informative, perhaps too informative for my interest, as I kind of got bored reading about so many people and so many peop ...more
Liz V.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it did not like it
A book to read in electronic format, as names are dropped with little more than one word tags, although Wikipedia and obituaries don't get the reader very far in some instances.

As well, Gray comes across as a singularly unattractive person. Self described as an anarchist, Gray may have been so politically. Her security file has gone missing. There can be no doubt, though, that Gray lobbed emotional bombs throughout her life. Indeed, when reference was made to friends, I took this to mean Norman'
Liz M
Apr 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book is a slog through the countless details of Patience Gray’s personal history and background while giving an understanding of the reactionary British intellectual who left society in search of a simpler life in postwar rural Italy & Greece.

Other reviews criticize the book for its ‘name dropping’ but Federman gives an understanding of the people who influenced Patience Gray as well as the social & cultural context from which ‘Honey from a Weed’ arose. Federman expands upon Gray’s social a
May 18, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this more. The early part of the book is slightly interesting however there is so much name dropping of British historical figures that are completely unknown to me that it becomes a bit of a slog. Patience isn't exactly an endearing personality. She's clearly Meandering through life not with a clear destination in mind. The second half of the book was beginning to focus in on her move to southern Italy which was the peace I was most interested in. Then, because it's a library b ...more
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A bit miraculous since Patience Gray lived in such a remote area of Italy most of her life. She succeeded in a connection with making a remarkable life based on her connections to people, plants, the earth and art. I don’t know if someone like her can exist today but if they do I want them to be my friend. So hopefully ahead of her time her spirit/impact could alter the current trajectory of consumerism, waste and pillage. She is an inspiration. Amazing writing and research. All these people! Th ...more
Meg K.
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure why I picked up this book, but I'm glad I did. Though extremely detailed and including so many people I couldn't keep track of them all, the story of Patience Gray was sad, serious, joyous, dark, light.....what a life she lived. The focus on her devotion to food, wine and the simple things in life was refreshing. I'm looking forward to reading "Honey From A Weed" and hope that is just as intriguing. ...more
Kelly L.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
It was interesting to learn about Patience Gray. She led such an eccentric life, impacting the world of food even though she lived remotely. I think this book could have been a page-turner, but it was more of a chronological account of her life than a story which would have appealed to my taste a bit more.
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
I've tried reading this book many times but am having trouble getting through it. It feels as if the author's focus is more name dropping than a true focus of who Patience actually was. As far as I can tell Patience was a solitary type person and liked living in the shadows even if she had many influential friends. ...more
Naomi Toftness
Oct 18, 2020 rated it did not like it
Gave up- I just could NOT get into it. I think you already need to know about Patience Gray to appreciate this book. I just wish there had been a chapter in the beginning that just demonstrated why I should care about this person's life before there was listing of her grandparents. ...more
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Patience Gray is an eccentric woman who led a fascinating life. I read only a third before I had to return this to the library. (Ugh!) Will definitely finish.
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating woman and life.
Rebecca Stilson
Couldn’t get into it. Trying to read on flight back from London

actually kept scanning and fairly interesting
Mar 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I kept reading because I was deeply interested in this iconic and iconoclastic woman's life and work. Despite the many irritating flaws in the telling of the story: Repetitive reminders about the identity of the people mentioned, unnecessary recaps of situations recounted a few pages earlier...I have seldom finished a book that was so replete with redundancies outside of undergraduate papers with an assigned minimum word count. Yet Patience Gray was an irritating, not particularly likable person ...more
Rachel Lunden
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Apr 24, 2020
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Nov 27, 2018
rated it it was amazing
Aug 12, 2019
Linda Brunner
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Oct 03, 2019
Edna Quammie
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Feb 24, 2018
Sharon Draper
rated it it was amazing
Jan 25, 2018
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