VP of Veg Plotting asked who we would invite to a dinner party, the guest list comprising 3 to 5 gardeners or nature lovers, real or fictional, living or not. The dinner party was supposed to be Saturday night, but I didn't find the invite until the day of and I had to think about who I would invite. Tough to decide, although once I found some focus it wasn't so difficult. My passion in the garden is growing vegetables and that passion is inextricably linked with my passion for cooking. So my guest list is composed of people who have inspired me in both endeavors. I came up with 8 people I would like to invite, and as I write I still can't decide who is going to make the final cut.
To start, I introduce the 2 vegetable gardeners/authors who have most influenced me in the garden. First is Pam Pierce, the author of my vegetable growing bible, Golden Gate Gardening. My garden really took off when I discovered her book which is tailored to our local growing conditions. Anyone growing a vegetable garden in coastal California and the San Francisco Bay Area really should have her book.
The next gardener introduced me to the joys of heirloom vegetables, William Woys Weaver, whom I talked about in my post about carrots. Many of the vegetables that I grow I learned about in his books Heirloom Vegetable Gardening and 100 Vegetables And Where They Came From. He used to offer seeds through the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook (alas, no more) and I was able to obtain some seeds of unusual varieties directly from him. His books also have quirky old recipes that are very interesting.
Next up are influential chefs/cookbook authors. Once you grow it you have to cook it! Deborah Madison is one of my favorite cookbook authors. I don't have every cookbook that she's written, but close to it. But my go to book by her is Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone. The heart of the book is a vegetable compendium that tells you how to cook just about any vegetable that you can find at the store or farmer's market. When I'm lacking inspiration I often find myself pulling her books off the shelf.
When it comes to herbs, I would love to spend a summer afternoon wandering around The Herbfarm with Jerry Traunfeld. I don't suppose that he had much to do with the actual growing of the herbs, but his cookbooks (The Herbfarm Cookbook and The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor) certainly do a great job of guiding you in their use in the kitchen. But Jerry, if you do come, could you bring the head gardener as well, I'm sure we can find an extra seat at the table.
And last but most definitely not least, the author of a delightful and quirky book about simple living in various localities in the Mediterranean, Patience Gray. She wrote Honey From A Weed, Fasting And Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, The Cyclades and Apulia. I love to just open the book to any page and start reading. Patience shared many years with the sculptor Norman Mommens, in whose company she travelled from place to place in the Mediterranean, from one source of stone to another. They finally settled in Apulia in a rustic farmhouse named Spigolizzi. All their accommodations through their wandering were rustic and close to the land. The book jacket describes the book as "a passionate autobiographical cookery book, Mediterranean through and through, and as compelling as a first-class novel", an accurate description. She has wonderful descriptions of the places, people, customs, and foods where ever they stayed, along with loads of simple and inspiring recipes. Since my cooking veers strongly toward a "Mediterranean" style, I would love to have a nice chat with her.
So there you have it! It's going to be an evening of great food and great garden talk!