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48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If Gauguin wrote cookbooks...
I first read Ms. Gray's book looking for a specific recipe, how was I to know it was not just a 'cookbook', but a charming look at life? Ms. Gray's stories about life among the stonecutters, peasants and artists of Greece and Italy was a delight to read. I'm buying extra copies to pass them around to cooks and non-cooks alike, anyone who needs to see firsthand that...
Published on August 17, 1997

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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Professional chefs and food writers seem to love this book
I think this is a book people are not neutral about. One either loves it or is left cold by it. Professional chefs and food writers seem to love this book. I found it not that thrilling. I can relate to the reviewer who found it unreadable. One of my favorite food writers, Elisabeth Luard, mentioned this book favorably and I got it with high hopes. For 41 years, I've...
Published on July 22, 2010 by olderandwiser


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48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If Gauguin wrote cookbooks..., August 17, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Honey from a Weed (Cook's Classic Library) (Paperback)
I first read Ms. Gray's book looking for a specific recipe, how was I to know it was not just a 'cookbook', but a charming look at life? Ms. Gray's stories about life among the stonecutters, peasants and artists of Greece and Italy was a delight to read. I'm buying extra copies to pass them around to cooks and non-cooks alike, anyone who needs to see firsthand that living well, often on a shoestring, can be the best revenge. Wonderful illustrations, simple recipes for soul-satisfying food...and one woman's recipe for a simpler life.
If this doesn't make you long to quit the 'day job' and run off to live on grilled sardines and fresh tomatoes in Tuscany or Naxos, call Tech Support, you've got some wires disconnected.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare treasure, December 6, 2000
This review is from: Honey from a Weed (Cook's Classic Library) (Paperback)
This is a wonderful book, a true and rare treasure, full of hunger and appetite, joy and toil. Books like this are sometimes called "a labor of love", which is somewhat of a cliche, but this book is brimfull of all the labor and love that goes into gathering, harvesting, preserving and cooking food grown for its own sake. Here, food is not a commodity to be bought and sold but a mainstay of life, a vital ingredient for happiness, a celebration of simple and good - but hard - life. The book would be valuable enough if that was all but there are also so many delightful recipes, so many wonderful anecdotes and descriptions, so much interesting autobiographical material. I've seen someone compare Honey from a Weed to Frances Mayers tedious Tuscanny books but don't let that mislead you; this is a very different book, written with immense sensitivity and hard-earned knowledge of the land the author has cultivated and the people she lived with and learned from.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epitome of Great Culinary Writing. Buy it and Read it Now!, December 30, 2004
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This review is from: Honey from a Weed (Cook's Classic Library) (Paperback)
`Honey from a Weed' by Patience Gray, by my very informal survey of approximately 400 cookbooks over the last year is probably the single most cited culinary book after Harold McGee's `On Food and Cooking' and Julia Child's `Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And, I have been trying to place this most distinctive work in the world of culinary writing for about the same time. I think I am finally able to identify its niche in a way that will assist potential readers to know what it is they can look forward to.

It is no whim to the publishers, Lyons & Burford, tagging the work as `Cooking/Literature'. The quality of the writing is easily on a par with the greatest food writers in English and this talent is directed to producing an almost unique genre that can be approximated by combining at least three common genres of culinary writing. First, take 40% from culinary diarists such as Amanda Hesser's `The Cook and the Gardener' and Elizabeth Romer's `The Tuscan Year'. Then, leaven with John Thorne's brand of culinary reporting and bake in the oven of Elizabeth David's culinary sophistication and cosmopolitan outlook.

Like Hesser in `The Cook and the Gardener', Ms. Gray is `embedded' within the milieu's on which she reports. But like Hesser of `Cooking for Mr. Latte', Ms. Gray is also participating in these cultures of Tuscany (Beantown central), Catalonia (Spain on the Mediterranean coast just south of France), the Cyclades (Greek islands in the Aegean), and Apulia (the heel of Italy). She is living and working in these worlds in a way very uncommon for a typical journalist or scholar.

The events driving the book's backstory are the travels of Ms. Gray with her partner, never identified more exactly than by the references `the sculptor' and `a stone carver' to various sites around the Mediterranean which are homes to marble quarries for giving up raw materials for statuary. A sample of the poetic imagery in the book describes this fact as `A vein of marble runs through this book. Marble determined where, how, and among whom we lived; always in primitive conditions.' These primitive conditions place Ms. Gray and her companion smack into the heart of environments which well-fed culinary commentators such as Mario Batali have been describing as the wellspring of great cuisine in Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean. Making do with local seasonal ingredients is not an ideological position for Ms. Gray; it is a daily fact of life!

I am generally not impressed with authors' lists of kitchen equipment offered as suggestions for your kitchen in order to pad out an extra ten pages in their books, when whole volumes cannot deal with this subject. Ms. Gray's recitation of her kitchen gear is not to teach, it is to aid us in understanding her kitchen environment in these rocky corners of the world.

The text is divided fairly evenly between chapters that deal with the author's experiences in these places with chapters dealing with a class of recipes typical of the local folk. This means one can pick up the thread of Ms. Gray's dialogue with her environment at just about any page and follow it's thread through the Mediterranean labyrinth of cuisine, as suggested by John Thorne in his Foreword. Just now, I open the book at random to a description of the rural Tuscan method for preserving `lardo', the fat from the pig's rump which is rubbed with salt, sprinkled with some dried thyme and bay, and sealed in an earthenware jar, where it stays as sweet as the day it was stored. The finer fat from around the pig's organs, `lardo strutto', is saved separately and used for yeast cakes and pastry. In a single paragraph there is information which some authors have used to fill whole articles in `Saveur'.

One especially delightful confluence of the book's themes is the chapter on mushrooms found near the marble quarry used by Michelangelo. Having read more than one book on mushrooms by such experts as Antonio Carluccio and Patricia Grigson, I find Ms. Gray's writing on these mycological treasures to be as entertaining and as informative as some of the best known works on the subject by other culinary writers.

While virtually all of the recipes can be done in a modern American kitchen, Ms. Gray typically describes them as they are done `in situ' on the campfires and coal burning ovens available to her. This enhances her work as a study of primitive cookery, leaving it to us to translate the primitive to our electric All-Clad kitchens. The book is also a feast of words. Everything is labeled with its proper Italian, Spanish, or Greek names, with complete translations. This is, after all, a work of scholarship where names in the original language are needed to be certain that references in Italian, Spanish, or Greek books are matched up correctly.

While this is a book of scholarship as much as it is a literary effort, I am delighted that Ms. Gray has included two items that I consider essential to good culinary studies. The first is not one but an entire set of excellent maps identifying the locations that are the subject of her writing. The second is an excellent bibliography arranged by site that cites not just the usual sources such as Elizabeth David and Alan Davidson. It includes both ancient and modern sources in English and Spanish, Italian, and Greek. But, we are not left to our own devices with ancient Latin or Greek, as classical works are cited in good English translations. The author has also been so considerate as to provide a list of Corinna Sargood's line drawings that contribute much to the charm of the book.

I must encourage you to seek this book out if you love reading about food. The author lives and paints the culinary environment most other writers simply report. Very highly recommended.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real Food for the Soul, August 16, 2007
Honey From a Weed provides a feel for a life of love and a lust for life. Here we have the essence of the Slow Food Movement, healthy heart, and devotional spiritual life -- love the Earth and be loved by the Earth.

I once asked the great Portland Chef Greg Higgins to identify his favorite cook book . He said he buys Honey from a Weed for his friends so they can forage together in the fields and steams of the Northwest.

This is as good as it gets.

1. Stunning writing as good a food literature ever becomes.
2. Fresh and found ingredients as all food is local and right outside the door - between the rows of corn and the among the vineyard weeds.
3. Slow and steady and simple. This puts a spear right through the heart of the royal and the pompous food world.
4. Peasant food is the food that 90 percent of the world eats and holds up to God at sunrise.
5. Simple tools. Forget the newest and fanciest electronic gadget and go to the thrift store if you want to be a great cook.
6. One or two dish meals. What is better than crusty bread, tomatoes, olives, garlic, local cheese, basil and red wine? Do we really want or need more?
7. Family food for one or two or three or friends or village.
8. What recipes? See, gather, prepare, cook, eat, devote.
9. Spiritual life in the garden and in the field. The hills glow with the peasant energy of Jean Giono.

I read this book every year. It is nourishing in every dimension -- the body, the brain, and the spirit.

Get it and live a better life.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Window on Rural Greek and Italian Life and Eating, September 22, 2005
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This review is from: Honey from a Weed (Cook's Classic Library) (Paperback)
Traditional cultural habits of eating, involving foraging for foods growing wild in the area, have always fascinated me, but I have found that most books talk about the foods harvested in general terms, and give little of substance to work with. Patience Gray opens the door to the world of wild food foraging, describing and discussing in great detail the species used, with the local names for each, when they are used, and how they are collected for everything from spring salads to autumn seafood, and how wild and cultivated foods are integrated with one another into the day to day cuisine. The best book on European cooking I have ever read. It is so good it has become one of my favorite gifts to give to f riends.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Know what you're getting, October 13, 2011
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Anthony Hill "Frograil" (Oakboro, NC United States) - See all my reviews
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This is not a cookbook, and it's not a travel guide. Those expecting either genre will be variously disappointed and bewildered. It's an antropologist's approach to a culture that existed 25-35 years ago, and has largely disappeared. Gray has an immensely broad education, the brains to take advantage of it, and life experience to make her a unique person to comment on the things she has seen and "lived" around the Mediterranean.

The recipes are simply a bonus.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Where "Cuisine" Comes From, September 9, 2009
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This review is from: Honey from a Weed (Cook's Classic Library) (Paperback)
This is not just great food writing, it's also anthropology, sociology, perhaps even botany. Gray lived in several places around the Mediterranean -- remote places, by current standards, and learned how to eat and cook from the locals. Perhaps much of this is lost now.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cooking with a scholar and a sculptor, August 9, 2009
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Amy Nicolai (Houston, TX, United States) - See all my reviews
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This is a fascinating read, with the life of a cook-scholar and a sculptor as the setting for a study in the feeding of the soul. I have read it several times, each time finding new treasure. The author brings her love of the "simple" life and food to us, sharing times gone by and providing a window to a past that while hard also had pleasures that we do not appreciate now. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I fell in love again..., December 12, 2009
By 
Joe A. Lee (Berkeley, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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I read this book 20 years ago, as a budding chef. I have just finished it again, and loved it even more. The reviewer who stated, she and her book club couldn't get through it, amazes me. I found it hard to put it down. This book shaped me as a young cook, and now that I Chef my own kitchen, I appreciation it even more. I am often asked by friends, family and strangers to recommend cook books, this is the first book I write down on paper. I love this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History lesson and historical recipes, July 23, 2013
By 
Allen Kay (Scotts Valley, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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I'd choose this book for its history lessons, not for any contemporary description of events. As such, it is interesting and informative. The recipes reflect the author's simple lifestyle and the times she writes about. For me, few of the recipes will be on my 'To Do' list. Still, I give the book high marks if you keep in mind that its a historical memory.
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Honey from a Weed (Cook's Classic Library)
Honey from a Weed (Cook's Classic Library) by Patience Gray (Paperback - March 1, 1997)
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