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.
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.
Reviews and Praise
“Of all my culinary heroes, Patience Gray was the most magical―and the most remote. I was lucky enough to meet her―just once. Adam Federman’s beautifully considered and well-researched biography shines a bright light on Gray’s complicated, surprising, and gutsy life.”―Alice Waters, owner, Chez Panisse; author of The Art of Simple Food
‘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 andSerious Pig
‘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 cast a spell over everyone she met, with her smoke-husky voice, darting observations, and bottomless erudition. In this marvelously well-researched biography, Adam Federman gives us sorceress and scholar: the postwar-London artistic Bohemia that shaped her and that she, with her stubborn unconventionality in a notably unconventional milieu, helped shape. Only the remote southern Mediterranean was wild enough for her own imagination and curiosity to soar—and her meticulously observed and researched descriptions of its food and life still have the enchanting force Federman makes us feel.”—Corby Kummer, senior editor, The Atlantic; author of The Pleasures of Slow Food
"(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
"[An] absorbing biography . . . Struck by her mind, her vision and her prose, [Federman] went in search of [Gray's] past. The massive research he undertook is evident, but he handles it gracefully; and this richly textured material unfolds at a gentle pace. . . He’s done the most important thing a biographer can do: He’s created a fully formed character in these pages, honoring not only her brilliance but the rough edges that made her human.”--Laura Shapiro, The New York Times Book Review