by Debora Robertson
I admit I may not be the obvious candidate to write a book about gardening. I don’t have a glorious Gloucestershire acre. I wield my trowel in the sort of plot you find laid out at the back of so many London terraces like rows of ragged green teeth. I live on the A10, where any shooting is of more of a drive-by than pheasant variety.
But gardening, growing, is an essential part of my life. In days navigated on hard pavement, in rattling buses or stuffy cab rides, it gives me a sense of the seasons passing. I could never be completely self sufficient, but I can grow some of what I eat which makes me feel more connected to all that I eat.
I flip through plant catalogues, scanning their pages for anything described as a ‘dwarfing variety’ or ‘compact’ like a particularly obsessive and green-fingered Sylvanian. In my little plot I have espaliered apple trees, a fan-trained cherry tree, currants of all hues, lettuces, rhubarb a mountain of herbs, roses, honeysuckle, jasmine and clematis scrambling over every vertical surface and more flowers than is really quite decent.
So when Judith Hannam at Kyle Books called me and asked if I would like to write a book which combined my career as a food writer with my love of gardening, I did a happy dance. An excuse to spend hours grubbing around in the garden and call it ‘work’? Yes, please.
All through that autumn and into the spring, I took what I grew and turned it into jams, jellies, biscuits, spice rubs, chutneys, herbal tisanes and cakes. So far, so normal. But Judith also wanted the book to include home and beauty projects. I cleared out a space in the kitchen for beeswax, sweet almond oil, Castile soap, Epsom salts and a whole host of other ingredients, slightly less familiar to me than butter, sugar, flour and eggs. Over those cold winter months, I added soaps, body scrubs, bubble bath, room sprays and pot pourri to my repertoire of ‘recipes’.
The idea behind the book is in its title – Gifts from the Garden: take what you grow and transform it into easy, original gifts. Buying it will clearly transform you into a kind(er), (more) generous person, beloved of your friends and family. But here’s a little secret. Making things is lovely. If I didn’t enjoy the making as much as the giving, I wouldn’t do it. I’m just not that sweet. Taking an hour to make a batch of biscuits, pour some soap or dip a few candles dresses up pleasure as virtue and wraps it up in a pretty satin ribbon. But let’s keep that as our little secret.
Debora Robertson lives in Stoke Newington. Her blog, Love and a Licked Spoon http://www.lickedspoon.com, has been featured in Elle Decoration, Psychologies and Grazia and was a nominee for Food Blog of the Year in the Guild of Food Writers Awards 2012 . She tweets @lickedspoon.
Read about them here: http://lickedspoon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/things-to-say-and-do.html
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