I am often asked to review books and say 'no' to most of the requests. Then Country Gardens Country Hospitality came along and I said 'yes'. I don't say 'no' to be contrary, it's because the majority of the books I'm emailed about don't interest me. I wouldn't read them and I don't recommend anything that I wouldn't use myself. When this book arrived, I read the introduction and knew my intuition had stood me in good stead. This is part of it:
"... when I walked into Heather Roll's house, her dining room table was groaning with homemade slices and cakes that her gardening community had made for the launch of my latest book, which was taking place the next day. And when I arrived at the venue for the launch the following morning, each round table was set with beautiful arrangements of roses that had been picked from local gardens. It was impossible not to be deeply moved by such generosity.
Country cooking is most often a celebration of what is grown locally: livestock raised with integrity and with tender, loving care; eggs from backyard chickens; fruit from home orchards; vegetables from the garden. Produce is swapped and shared with neighbours, or snapped up at farmers' markets."
This book is beautifully presented, it felt very familiar to me and I loved reading it. The author, Holly Kerr Forsyth, travelled around Australia in 2010, during the drought, visiting the families and gardens featured in the book. In each home she visited, country hospitality was rich and abundant and old family recipes shared. Such recipes were: pink elderflower syrup, raspberry sorbet, French bean salad, apple and walnut cake, and many more. I don't know the people featured but I know what sort of kitchens they run and that they enjoy good wholesome food. These are country folk who most probably share my values, I feel like a neighbour to them.
Having written my own book I know how focused you need to be to write a book such as this. A book that endeavours to give a clear account of each family home and garden, and the food that is frequently produced there. Country people in Australia are different to city folk and Holly Kerr Forsyth has captured that difference. There is an eagerness to provide hospitality to visitors and a connection to local community that is often lacking in larger and busier places. This is a good book, I recommend it to you and although I was going to have a book giveaway, this one I'm keeping for myself. :- ) It's published by The Miegunyah Press, an imprint of Melbourne University Publishing Limited.
Another true gem I came across this week is the magazine Frankie. You and I both know I'm not one for magazines nowadays and most of the time I'm either at home, or wandering around completely oblivious to the commercial world around me. This week, while waiting for Hanno to finish his visit to the doctor, I wandered into the newsagent at Montville and there Frankie was, waiting for me. It cost ten dollars but I could not resist buying it - the cover is unlike anything I've seen on a magazine and I couldn't walk away. It looks and feels like a hand-stitched sampler. I thought it might be a new magazine but on the inside cover, it says it's the 50th edition, AND it's a Brisbane magazine! Why didn't I know?
I'm going to make one of these.
Walking back to the car I had a chance to look through it before Hanno returned and I was hoping it would not disappoint. It didn't. It's full of clever articles, the layout and design is innovative and beautiful, and even though I'm in my mid-60 and definitely not the demographic they're after, I loved it. They even have an advert for Etsy in there. Crikey, homemade strikes back. I loved Pui Pui Tam's An Open Letter to the man who threw the pie at my head and I've bluetacked the I've choreographed a special dishwashing dance for you poster to the side of my fridge. I might do that dance during my days of solitude that start today, but I'll write about that tomorrow.
Sure there were things I rolled my eyes at, and there were parts where I thought, not again! When you're my age you realise that the wheel is never reinvented, it's refashioned, recycled, rehashed, repaired, renewed and revamped. And they've certainly done that but in a genuine, original and authentic sense that is aimed at a generation much younger than mine. I haven't finished reading it, in fact I've only read about a quarter of the entire magazine, but it has won me over well and truly. I might not buy every copy but I will buy it when I can.
This is the inside back cover.
I often hear from my contemporaries that younger generations are lazy and dumbed down. I suppose some young people are like that (I know some older people are), but my own sons and DILs are that age, so is my editor Jo and her husband Eli, so too are Greg and Soph who visited two weeks ago, and Katie and Reuben who will visit next week. They aren't lazy and they're certainly not dumb. I reckon Frankie represents them. Their lives are focused on sustainability and truth, with a touch a whimsy and vintage nostalgia thrown in for interest's sake. They get it! and I think Frankie gets it too.