Honey from a Weed

by Patience Gray

ISBN-10: 190301820X
ISBN-13: 9781903018200
Region: Europe
Publisher: Prospect Books
Publication Date: December, 2004
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Publishers Information

About Honey from a Weed

Publisher Web Link: http://

Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia

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 André Simon Book Prize committee in 1987.

Prospect Books issued the first hardback edition for the UK, selling US rights. This first edition is now out of print. A UK paperback was produced by Macmillan in 1987. Currently, Prospect has issued a paperback, with the original drawings by Corinna Sargood and the same text in the same generous format of the original hardback. The beautiful cover is being re-used. This edition is available in both Britain and the USA.

Although more than a cookery book – being a musing on a life lived on the shores of the Mediterranean, particularly wherever marble suitable for sculpture can be found – it contains many vibrant and useful recipes, making it a bible for lover of Mediterranean food. Fish, wild plants, game and tomatoes are just some of the foodstuffs that get treatment of an impeccable sort.

This is the text of the cover copy of the current edition.

Patience Gray was first known for the 1950s classic, Plats du Jour, but her greatest work was this passionate autobiographical cookery book Honey from a Weed. It is Mediterranean through and through, and as compelling as a first-class novel. First published fifteen years ago, this is a re-issue in the original format, but with soft covers.

She shared the life of a sculptor, Norman Mommens, whose appetite for marble and sedimentary rocks took them to Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades (Naxos) and Apulia. These are the places which in turn inspired this rhapsodic text.

Everywhere, she learned from the country people whose way of life she shared, adopting their methods of growing, cooking and con­serving the staple foods of the Mediterranean. She described the rustic foods and dishes with feeling and fidelity, writing from the inside and with a deep sense of the history and continuity of Mediterranean ways.

Her life in the Salento contrasted with an earlier, and indeed glittering, career in Fleet Street, but she sacrificed the deadlines of the past to the rhythm of wine-making, seasonal sowing and gathering.

Patience Gray’s first book was Plats du Jour (with Primrose Boyd, published in 1957); she then wrote a cookery book for a shipping line, The Centaur’s Kitchen (available from Prospect Books). She described her life on Naxos in Ringdoves and Snakes and her life and work in general in Work Adventures Childhood Dreams. Patience Gray died in 2005.

Corinna Sargood’s drawings, in another dimension, evoke the under­lying spirit of the book, which has to do with the landscape, people, art, imagination, as much as with fasting and feasting. (https://prospectbooks.co.uk/)

Author Information

About Patience Gray

Patience Gray (1917-2005), née Stanham, was at Queen’s College, Harley Street and read economics at LSE. She became a secretary at the Arts Council, where she met Thomas Gray, whose name she took by deed poll; they had two children before they parted. She lived in Hampstead, worked at the Royal College of Art and translated Larousse Gastronomique with Primrose Boyd (1913-82), a painter who was married to the BBC producer Donald Boyd. The two of them formed a freelance research partnership and in 1957 published Plats du Jour. At the time it far outsold Elizabeth David’s books, 50,000 copies being bought in the first year. The memorable drawings were some of the earliest published work by the now renowned painter and illustrator David Gentleman (b.1930). From 1958-61 Patience was first Woman’s Page editor for the Observer; she then made her home in Italy with Norman Mommens the sculptor. Their life together is evoked in Honey from a Weed (1986). (http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/)

Cookbooks by Patience Gray


Recipe Index

Recipe index coming soon.