Grow, Cook, Nourish: A Kitchen Garden Companion in 500 Recipes
By Darina Allen
This beautiful tome, worthy of display in even the most well-appointed farmhouse kitchen, is full of recipes (five hundred, to be exact) that manage to be exquisite and imaginative as well as richly nourishing. In fact, the word “nourish” is important enough to be in the title.
Grow, Cook, Nourish: A Kitchen Garden Companion in 500 Recipes is Darina Allen’s sixteenth book. She tells us in the introduction that it “may just be the most important one [she] ever write[s].” One gets a sense of the fierceness of her life’s passion when she divulges her message, “For God’s sake grow some of your own food and cook it.”
Allen has been compared to the likes of Alice Waters and Julia Child because of her immense talent for cooking dishes that spark the senses, as well as for inspiring others to do the same. With her husband she runs a world-renowned cooking school in Ireland, which is attached to a hundred-acre organic farm she has spent decades cultivating. Allen is committed to local organic produce and set up Ireland’s first farmers’ market. Apparently a prolific writer as well as an excellent cook and educator, she is the author of such books as Forgotten Skills of Cooking and Irish Traditional Cooking.
Allen recounts that as a child in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s, gardens and orchards were common, and most people shopped at markets for fresh produce daily. After 1979, however, the surfeit of packaged foods at supermarkets meant that the quick-and-easy took precedence over the more involved (albeit more healthful and flavorful) recipes of past generations.
Allen wants to reverse this trend. She believes (as do WAPF members in general) that the modern diet is clearly connected to the rise in chronic disease she has seen in her native country. A large part of her mission is carried out through a twelve-week course she conducts at her “Cookery School.” On day one, she shows her students the dark, rich, fragrant soil that has been enhanced by the compost made by the kitchen scraps and eggshells from happy hens. She shows that it is all connected—the eye-closing, tongue-tingling sensation that you get when fork meets mouth is not possible if the ground is not first tended with love, care and wisdom.
This hefty book, which includes luscious full-color photographs, is not just a list of ingredients and directions. It includes information on farm-to-table gardening and encourages even the apartment-dweller to get started with whatever space is available. We all have to start somewhere, we are reminded, and gardening is a lifetime pursuit. Even the most seasoned gardeners are learning with each passing year, with Mother Nature serving as the sometimes mercurial, often merciful, but always fascinating mentor of us all.
Examples of recipes in Grow, Cook, Nourish include: “Roasted Plums with Buffalo Mozzarella and Mint”; “Burmese Pork and Potato Curry”; “Carrot Marmalade”; “Corn and Scallion Pancakes with Roast Tomatoes, Bacon and Avocado Salsa”; “Lemon Verbena Marmalade”; and “Honey and Lavender Ice Cream.”
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