"Self-sufficiency is for cranks," Monty and Sarah Don announce: "organic gardening is not a system to be punished for breaking." In the next breath, however, they inveigh--just as robustly--against the prevailing gardening culture which is all about adding foreign material to the soil: an approach they compare to "throwing antibiotics" at an ill body "and damaging the ability to self-heal."
Monty and Sarah Don are out to steer a middle course between the prevailing, impoverished approach to food production and the behaviours of total cranks whose worry and right-on-ness sucks the pleasure out of the whole business. The book, made to accompany the Channel 4 series, is full of exquisitely simple recipes and fuss-free gardening advice. (The beetroot and red chard risotto is a marvel.) As the diary of a year rooted to the soil, it's sure to be a modern classic. But don't be seduced into thinking it's any sort of bible or cure-all.
It's actually much easier to take advice from a crank--you take what you need and ignore the rest with a clear conscience--than to navigate books like this one, in which everything is tied up with everything else in a seamlessly "sensible"--and unique--scheme. "A boned leg of organic lamb, raised on the water meadow butting onto the garden, strewn with plenty of rosemary and cooked over the most basic of wood fires is not sophisticated cuisine, but a genuine feast nonetheless." Well, sure--but so what?
Monty and Sarah Don are rightly proud of the lifestyle they've achieved. But take their advice, and don't get hung-up. Pillage their prose. Take what you need. --Simon Ings
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This special reissue includes new introductory text and celebrates the vital link between growing, cooking and eating food all year round. For Monty and Sarah Don, a love of eating food must include an awareness of how that food is grown, and a love of growing your own food must include an active interest in how best to cook it. They demonstrate this philosophy in this seasonal month-by-month guide on how to cultivate and cook a range of vegetables, herbs and fruits which is accompanied by photographs that record a year in the kitchen garden at their home. It includes detailed instructions and gardening tips as well as more than 40 recipes to inspire food lovers to make the best use and appreciate the real flavours of home-grown food.