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Fasting and Feasting (UK Edition)

The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray

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 wrote only for herself and her friends, yet her growing reputation brought a steady stream of international visitors to her door. This simple and isolated life she chose for herself may help explain her relative obscurity when compared to the other great food writers of her time: M. F. K. Fisher, Elizabeth David, and Julia Child.

So it is not surprising that when Gray died in 2005, the BBC described her as an “almost forgotten culinary star.” Yet her influence, particularly among chefs and other food writers, has had a lasting and profound effect on the way we view and celebrate good food and regional cuisines. Gray’s prescience was unrivaled: She wrote about what today we would call the Slow Food movement—from foraging to eating locally—long before it became part of the cultural mainstream. Imagine if Michael Pollan or Barbara Kingsolver had spent several decades living among Italian, Greek, and Catalan peasants, recording their recipes and the significance of food and food gathering to their way of life.

In Fasting and Feasting, biographer Adam Federman tells the remarkable—and until now untold—life story of Patience Gray: from her privileged and intellectual upbringing in England, to her trials as a single mother during World War II, to her career working as a designer, editor, translator, and author, and describing her travels and culinary adventures in later years. A fascinating and spirited woman, Patience Gray was very much a part of her times but very clearly ahead of them.


"(Patience Gray) emerges from this life as an utterly original spirit who was one of the few to rebel against the change in direction that eating had taken in modern times.”—Bee Wilson, The Sunday Times

‘Patience Gray was a cultural outrider. Her life encompassed many thoughts and actions that preoccupy us today: single motherhood, passion gratified, an appreciation of the wider European scene, simplicity and self-sufficiency, food and cookery as an expression of place and identity, existence infused by art and taste. Yet she never quite banished the bourgeois within her. These contradictions, and her distinctive and distinguished contributions to the modern scene, are gracefully described in this sensitive and revealing biography.’—Tom Jaine, editor, Petits Propos Culinaires

‘A revelatory book about an extraordinary woman, writer, and cook. Patience Gray’s rackety life seems to conform perfectly with her visionary and revolutionary views about food, cooking, and eating. She should become a totemic culinary figure for our times.’—William Boyd, author of Sweet Caress and Any Human Heart

‘Patience Gray’s Honey from a Weed is an anomaly in the world of cookbooks—an inimitable, passionate, and reader-challenging account of her off-the-grid life in poverty-stricken rural areas of Catalonia, Tuscany, the Cyclades, and, most importantly, Apulia.

‘Part acerbic diarist, part gifted ethnobotanist, part fervent environmentalist, part food writer whose recipes still spoke their rustic dialect, Patience Gray wove her life, thoughts, and experiences into an indisputable masterpiece. Now, in Adam Federman, she has found her biographer—astute, empathetic, indefatigable in pursuit of the painterly details that he then deftly works into a portrait of an amazing original—and the remarkable company she kept.’—John Thorne, author of Outlaw Cook and Serious Pig

‘Fans of Honey from a Weed are sure to devour this highly readable biography of Patience Gray, which reveals not only the inspirations and experiences behind that cult book but also the life and times of the fiercely independent woman who wrote it. Adam Federman’s carefully researched book lucidly describes the intellectual and emotional development of a woman who made her own rules both in work and love.’—Jojo Tulloh, author of East End Paradise and The Modern Peasant

‘I felt I almost met Patience Gray amongst the pages of Honey from a Weed. I never did but somehow fancy I came to know her in Fasting and Feasting and love her all the better for it. It is a touching biography of not just a remarkable woman but a way of eating, seeing, and living.’—Jacob Kenedy, chef-owner, Bocca di Lupo

Honey from a Weed has been a constant companion for many years. It is a brilliant work, ahead of its time in so many ways. To now read the story of this fine book’s author and her remarkable life is a great joy.’—Jeremy Lee, chef patron, Quo Vadis


Adam Federman

Adam Federman

Adam Federman is a reporting fellow with the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute covering energy and the environment. He has written for the Nation magazine, the GuardianColumbia Journalism Review, Gastronomica, Petits Propos Culinaires, Earth Island Journal, Adirondack Life, and other publications. He has been a Russia Fulbright fellow, a Middlebury fellow in environmental journalism, and the recipient of a Polk grant for investigative reporting. A former line cook, bread baker, and pastry chef, he lives in Vermont.


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June 28, 2017

Adam Federman at Daunt Books Hampstead

51 South End Road, London, United Kingdom | Adam Federman
Tickets £5.00 Event starts at 6:30pm

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Fasting and Feasting (UK Edition)

Pages:384 pages
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Hardcover: 9781603587525
Pub. Date June 07, 2017

Available In/Retail Price

Hardcover, 384 pages,