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Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia

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4.29  ·  Rating details ·  326 ratings  ·  46 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 375 pages
Published March 3rd 2001 by Prospect Books (first published January 1st 1986)
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Average rating 4.29  · 
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Start your review of Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia
Jennifer Smith
Sep 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: always-reading
I want to grab your shoulders and shake you while yelling, " you don't understand! This book, this history, this cookbook, this novel! THIS is my #1 book. I shall always make pesto with mortar and pestle now because of this book. I shall always think of man as "nostalgia and a search for communion." Chickpeas, broad beans, quince jams, ewe's cheeses, pigeons, weeds, bilberries and little almond cakes dance in my head!" ...more
Vicki
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a strange time to be alive, and I am a strange age to be. (Although, honestly? Every age is a strange one to be.) I am old enough to remember life without a lot of technology, and to have been raised by people without a lot of technology, and I am young enough to have had enough technology that I would look like a spaceman to my great grandparents. I feel like all I've been doing for the past 8 to 10 years, though, is watching things disappear.

That's why this book is a pleasure. A really
...more
Jason Goodwin
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cookbooks
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. It's shot through with Gray's acerbic wit and wisdom, as she follows her stonemason around quarries from Carrara to Naxos. It teaches you more about cuisine than fifty other plump illustrated cookbooks might - and connects food to place, perfectly. ...more
Becki Iverson
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I put this on my list after listening to a podcast interview with Samin Nosrat, who cited this as one of the fundamental books she was required to read in order to work with Alice Waters. It's a very interesting food book - technically it's a cook book, although I think it's much more literary than what we typically classify in that genre. It reminded me of a blend of styles, as if a hippie had cobbled together the styles of Brillat-Savarin's Physiology of Taste with the collected work of M.F.K. ...more
Rachel
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Pista e Coza

In this town there were still some old quarrymen left, whose working day for 40 years began at 3 o'clock in the morning by making breakfast, before walking up the mountains to the quarries, carrying their boots to save the leather, with a fiasco of wine and a merenda tied in a bundle. A retired quarryman called Catossi had a great reputation as a gran' mangiatore, a real gourmand, and this is what he cooked.

Getting up in the dark, he took his stonemason's hammer and banged that recal
...more
Lindy
"The recipes in this book belong to an era of food grown for its own sake, not for profit."
Food writing excellence. Gray and her husband, a sculptor, lived in various rural areas of the Mediterranean in order to be near marble quarries. A passionate historical record, a joy to read. I especially loved all the information about edible wild plants.
Consult this if you want to make pig brains into a smooth sauce, learn how to abolish the acrid taste when preparing fox or badger ("applies equally to
...more
K.
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Elderberry, samphire, wild fennel, wood sorrel.
Chris Hall
Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is delightful window on the kind of rural life in southern Europe, which must have all but disappeared now.
I've had this book on my shelves for many years, ever since I visited the village of Apollona in Naxos in the late 1980s. I've dipped into a few of the recipes from time to time, as evidenced by the stains on some of the pages, but I've never read the book from cover to cover.
It's a fascinating evocation of traditional ways of growing, harvesting and eating, and people's connections to
...more
Catie
Oct 31, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommendation from NPR: Books - 10/31/2017
Isabelle
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An essential read for anyone who loves food writing. This book is half recipes and indexes of common ingredients in mediterranean cooking and half meditation on a simple, slow, community-driven way of life that feels as though it must have been disappearing even in the time it was written. The recipes are about simplicity of technique, old ways handed down over generations, the best ways to bring out flavors inherent in good ingredients, and while I don't know if I'll necessarily cook from them ...more
Linda Brunner
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was drawn to this book as part of her choir really. I live rurally, eat from our gardens, we have bees and I heal with herbs. Refreshing to find an authentic forerunner living simply and in tandem with her environment.

Writing with clarity and wit, Patience Gray was as fortifying as a breeze off the lake. Here from the book:
In Apulia any 'alternative' life runs against the social current. Stigmatized as 'old fashioned', it is more often accounted as 'living in misery'. Living well, referred to
...more
Kathryn McGowan
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a combination memoir, travelogue, and cooking book. The author, and her sculptor husband, lived in Southern Italy, Greece, and Spain (specifically Catalunya) beginning in the 1960s in search of marble for her husband to work. They lived in extremely austere circumstances often without electricity, running water, or a modern stove. She spent lots of time learning about the local food traditions from her rural neighbors. The book is a wonderful look into how mediterranean people lived long ...more
Joe
Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One day, I hope to be the sort of hirsute old man Gray describes, snacking on fried anchovies and rough red wine. Good food can (should be?) simple, and apart from the rather baroque recipes for things like hare and fox there are interesting, simple recipes for good food here. The whole idea of edible weeds is salutary in a time when we are learning about the negative effects of excessive meat consumption on our health and on the environment.

It’s not just about the food, though. It’s about a my
...more
Tim
Aug 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, a good read as much as a cookery book
Amelia Petrovic
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Given that most of my favorite food bloggers, podcasters and writers cite this as one of their favorite books, I was predestined to love this and love it I did. It's a fascinating, wonderfully escapist glimpse into Gray's several decades cooking, foraging, and documenting the disappearing food traditions of remote locales within Italy, Greece, and Spain. She was married to Norman Mommens (a sculptor) and it seems all the good marble is located in ancient mediterranean villages evocative of class ...more
Liz M
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Classic book about the people and cuisine of Tuscany, Catalonia, The Cyclades& Apulia from around the mid sixties where British expats were still something of an anomaly.

Beautifully written, literary in style with humorous moments (as in the chapter on ‘The Threat of Bombardment’ following beans consumption and a mention of the ‘salutatory effects of garlic.’ ;) Gray documents the lives and seasons of the people around her with warmth and integrity.

Seasons, places, and people are portrayed thro
...more
Caroline
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: slow-food
This was painful to get through. Though I'm a big fan of Mediterranean cuisine, the different translations into 4 romance languages, the lack of a story line, the erudite style was just too heavy handed for me. This book took itself too seriously, no humor. It took me a long time to finish it because it was just too academic. I admit I have not tried cooking from any of the recipes. Not sure how they'll turn out since everything seemed to be cooking in the rustic manner on an open fire... If I h ...more
Hilary Campbell
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is one of those 'not just' books. It is not just a recipe book - it is a wonderful miscellany of history, geography, politics, philosophy. It is a book that lifts the spirits because it is full of joy at shared mealtimes,generous hospitality, shared food in times of feasting and famine. ...more
Nadia
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent and well researched meditation on the communities Patience Gray lived in. Working class food in Italy, Catalon, and Greece. It can drag at times when talking about different recipes but Gray really knows how to make food writing pop.
Elin
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
a way of thinking about ingredients
Bob
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a mystical person in food and life.
A total person.
Powerful book about living life in total.
She and her lover, partner, husband Norman Mommens get beyond the basics of living and actually turn the corner.
One of the best books I have ever read.
Lauren Harrigan
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Patience forever
Tess
Apr 10, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a book I came to with high expectations. It is the kind of food writing I like; a mixture of food, travel and places, biography and personal passion.

It is a book that amazes me with its observation. The vivid pictures it draws of the places are so memorable and I can bring those images my mind as I write this review. The writing about the food is so rich, so graphic in its detail and scope. It is clearly written from a huge depth of knowledge. It is a treasure of a book and I am glad to
...more
Diana
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
A charming look back for us and the writer who went as far back as 1960 from 1986 when she wrote the book. It's about eating locally with the seasons, foraging and making do with what you have.

Taken directly from the text: "The current of this book swirls to and for between five areas of the Mediterranean. In order of time, the places where the author and the sculptor have lived are:
CASTELPOGGIO, a mountain town above Carrara
VENDRELL near Tarragona in Catalonia
APPOLANA on Naxos
LA BAROZZO in the
...more
Scott
Jan 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers of biography, vicarious travel, Mediterranean foodways
A re-read.I can read this once a year, and still enjoy it. A unique book on doing with and without: seasonal fare, a buzzword now, is a eat or go hungry option in the locales featured in this memoir. Gray writes flinty prose, and offers a glimpse into a presumably vanished way of life.A way that sometimes includes hunger. Advice on cooking a fox is included. Fascinating details of Mediterranean peasant and artist life while searching for stone for The Artist.

There are recipes,Jim,but not as we k
...more
Jessica
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Patience and I would have gotten along I think. These are my kinds of adventures and all linked to, and alongside, really interesting information about food. It is like the hardcore artist/hippy version of Under the Tuscan Sun (the book, not that ridiculous movie). Although I have made some of the few recipes that are found in the book Under the Tuscan Sun and I don’t think I am hardcore enough to try any of these...especially not in a condo in Chicago. It is a book that will have you dreaming o ...more
Faith McLellan
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cooking, history, travel
I have dipped in and out of this book for years, but decided this weekend to do it all in one go. A great work of imagination, history, and culture. Not much for cooking here, I think, as I can't imagine making Pigs' Tongues with Pomegranate Sauce for any occasion. But lovely prose and very evocative. ...more
Catrien Deys
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an underrated (as in: I never heard of it, if it wasn't for Rick Stein who mentioned it in one of his programs) book with recipes and background of foods/produce in the (coastal) areas of Italy and Catalonia (mainly). It is very thorough and very good and I'll never finish it, but will refer to it again and again. ...more
Laura Lawson
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this from time to time, jumping around. It’s not a cookbook but a book about Mediterranean food, places and people with recipes. Because the author was with a partner who worked in marble, the places are places where marble was mined. The recipes are of local people’s seasonal foods. The book takes one into another world.
Emily
Feb 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food-books
I read this in the heart of tomato season and learned all about the traditional harvesting, preparing, preserving, and feasting of tomatoes throughout the Mediterranean, as well as olives (and olive oil!), all sorts of herbs, and other delicious healthy treats.
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