Sunday, May 31, 2020

Gill Meller's Root Stem Leaf Flower - a developing love story

The news is grim again, and I'm not ignoring it, but I feel quite strongly that the best thing I can say about what's happening, especially in America is to read, witness, and listen. 

Meanwhile the opportunity to take socially distanced walks with people, or sit in a park, has done my mental health a world of good. The flowers that a very kind friend bought with her yesterday were a truly tremendous gift, and all of it is a reminder that there are good people, and good things in the world.

Another one of those good things turns out to be Gill Meller's new book 'Root Stem Leaf Flower'. I loved 'Gather' and liked 'Time', which I'm now thinking I need to seriously revisit. It didn't make much anything like the impact that either of the other two have (Gather had the same really special feeling about it that Root Stem Leaf Flower has right from first look) but that might be as much to do with how low being in a difficult work situation made me feel for the last couple of years (redundancy has made a few things uncomfortably clear).

Regardless, I'd been looking forward to 'Root Stem Leaf Flower' enough to feel okay about spending money on it (anyone else feeling weird about doing this now? It seems to go deeper than just the joblessness with me at the moment.) but as it turned up just before a zoom catch up on Friday evening I didn't even think to open it until late on in the evening as bed time reading. It kept me up.

It was the very bookish equivalent of meeting someone for the first time, speaking for hours, and feeling that this was meant to be. (It happens a lot more with books than it does people). The first indication that this is going to be serious came with the picture of some borage - I hadn't even reached the title page. I checked and Andrew Montgomery has done the photography for all 3 of Meller's books. It's obvious with the food shots and the portraits of Meller, and it's always nice work; the dishes look good and there's a sense that they belong to someone's home and garden (grass is a common background). Here though there's an image for each sub section, and they are beautiful. 

I'm not normally a fan of what I think of excess photography in cookbooks, until now my only real exception has been for Regula Ysewijn's books, and that's partly been because they're her images with her food, and the whole package becomes something more than its parts. Anyway, I'm happy to have my prejudices shattered, and these pictures make me feel like I'm looking at something as prosaically every day as an onion as if it's for the first time, and something I need to have immediately. Which is exciting, and I really don't think it's just a case of lockdown fatigue.

It's a vegetarian book, a category that I continue to but with good intentions but quite often not much follow through, but again I'm reading these recipes and not only thinking I want to eat them, but for once not thinking of these things as side dishes. There are also ideas that I'm going to apply to meat dishes - tonight's dinner was a sort of lasagne with sliced courgette rather than pasta, I'll be making the properly vegetarian version asap, but tonight I had other things that needed using. The courgette slices were a revelation.

There will be a proper review of this book soon, but right now it's new love and I couldn't wait to shout about it. 

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