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Bohemian recipe

Books | By Paul Bailey | August Issue

Fasting and Feasting: The Lie of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman, reviewed by Paul Bailey

Patience Gray’s Honey from a Weed is one of those rare cookery books that can be read as a work of literature. It was published in 1986 to considerable acclaim, not least by the writer Angela Carter, who compared Gray’s prose to that of Sir Thomas Browne, the great 17th-century polymath. It’s not such a wild comparison, as Adam Federman is at pains to demonstrate in his even-handed biography of a woman with an adventurous nature and a constantly inquiring mind. In 1937, just before her twentieth birthday, she travelled to Hungary with her best friend, Betty Barnado, hitch-hiking through Belgium, Germany and Austria, before going down the Danube to Budapest.  She was always happiest when away from England and the stifling conventions of middle-class life. She was at home in four, or perhaps five, European languages, and was formidably well-read. She grew up in what sounds like a rural...

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