Kitchen

Ruislip & Eastcote & Northwood Gazette - - Sound Out -

FOR most of us, the kitchen is where it all hap­pens. From quickly grabbed slices of toast and last-minute snatches of home­work, to the lazy chaos of prep­ping and dish­ing up Sun­day lunch, and drunken late-night ar­gu­ments over who ate the last of the crisps and dip.

“It is the kitchen, for most peo­ple, where in­ter­ac­tion and life takes place,” ex­plains food writer Gill Meller, best known for his work with Hugh Fearn­leyWhit­tingstall at River Cot­tage. “Our kitchen, when we were grow­ing up, was fairly lively. My par­ents were quite so­cia­ble, ev­ery­thing just hap­pened there – friends would come, peo­ple would stay, food would be cooked.”

From his child­hood in his par­ents’ kitchen, he went on to spend his adult­hood in com­mer­cial kitchens: “So as a space and a place, it’s al­ways had a real sig­nif­i­cance and poignance – more so than the other rooms in one’s house.”

As such, he has pep­pered his lat­est cook­book, Time, with pho­to­graphs of kitchens that be­long to peo­ple he loves – “to make some noise” about these fun­da­men­tal rooms that un­der­pin what we eat, how we eat it, and who we eat with.

Gill, 37, says his kitchen now isn’t packed with gad­gets and in­stead he re­lies on a cou­ple of good sharp knives and “sen­ti­men­tal things”, like his pes­tle and mor­tar, his wooden spoons, and an old sil­ver fork.

The col­li­sion be­tween me­mory and cook­ing is a thread he tugs on through­out Time, be it through the im­pact of a spe­cific uten­sil, the joy of a bor­rowed recipe, or in try­ing to recre­ate a child­hood meal from me­mory and taste alone.

“Me­mory is all we re­ally have as peo­ple, in the sense that we don’t re­ally know what to­mor­row’s go­ing to bring,” says Gill. “The pre­sent is an in­stant, so ev­ery­thing that shapes us and moulds us and gives us what we know, is in our me­mory. Any­one who writes a cook­book, they’re only pulling on mem­o­ries, even if they’re cre­at­ing a new recipe.”

He be­lieves food mem­o­ries are par­tic­u­larly sig­nif­i­cant, “be­cause eat­ing and tast­ing is such an im­por­tant part of our lives and the senses trig­ger mem­o­ries like noth­ing else”. Even some­thing as sim­ple as fish fin­gers can take you back, he notes with a laugh.

Gill’s mother died last year, and her food and in­flu­ence can be felt through­out Time, be it in the sea­sonal na­ture of his recipes, rec­ol­lec­tions of her “old turquoise, crank-han­dled run­ner-bean slicer”, or in shar­ing her recipe for spaghetti with to­mato and fried chicken, a dish ev­ery­one in his fam­ily makes.

The book is split into three parts – Morn­ing, Day, Night – but es­sen­tially mir­rors, break­fast, lunch and din­ner, and in­cludes recipes from across the sea­sons in each sec­tion.

And the food it­self, says Gill, is straight­for­ward and achiev­able too. Time, he ad­mits, is a touch more ac­ces­si­ble than his de­but cook­book from 2016, Gather - for in­stance, there’s no squir­rel meat in this one, but he’s all for en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to con­sider dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents.

team to re­vamp its wine of­fer­ing was seen to be fi­nally bear­ing fruit. (Is that a pun? I’m not sure.) The red is part of its Taste Range, launched last year to­gether with its Al­pha­bet range (you see a sim­ple “G” on a wine la­bel, and the wine is gar­nacha etc.). Those ranges are now sup­ported by an Ex­clu­sives line and the new Re­gion­als Se­lec­tion line. The lat­ter has a set of la­bels de­signed to pull to­gether the many wines from across the world – France, Chile, South Africa, Italy, Spain, Ar­gentina – un­der a con­sis­tent um­brella.

Philippa Carr MW, Spar’s wine con­sul­tant, told me they’ve had to think care­fully about what the mod­ern con­sumer wants, es­pe­cially in

“We live in a fairly shel­tered culi­nary so­ci­ety, in that we’re not that ad­ven­tur­ous,” he adds. “You only need to go to France and take a quick trip into the butcher’s shop and you’ll see things the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in the UK wouldn’t dream of eat­ing on a reg­u­lar ba­sis; in­testines and brains, all sorts of un­usual of­faly pieces.”

“I love liver and ba­con,” he con­tin­ues. “I don’t see why we should be ner­vous of it, it’s just an­other part of the an­i­mal. It might be an or­gan but it’s still flesh.”

He ex­tends this at­ti­tude to where he cooks too. Take a quick glance at Gill’s idyl­lic In­sta­gram feed and you’ll see en­vyin­duc­ing pic­tures of him cook­ing over hot coals on West Dorset beaches (he lives near Lyme Regis with his wife and two daugh­ters).

“I just love be­ing out­side, I love cook­ing; if you com­bine the two, it makes for a pretty good day,” he says with a grin.

He laments the loss of un­der­stand­ing around food and fire, brought on by the avail­abil­ity of elec­tric­ity and gas, which his­tor­i­cally saw house­holds ditch­ing their open fires and coal range burn­ers – but we can re­build that con­nec­tion. “Tune out for a bit, go out­side, make a fire, cook some­thing nice to eat – there’s noth­ing more pri­mal or sim­ple or ba­sic than that,” he says. It just comes down to mak­ing time for it.

■ Time: A Year And A Day In The Kitchen by Gill Meller, pho­tog­ra­phy by An­drew Mont­gomery, is pub­lished by Quadrille, £25.

stores where a wine buy­ing de­ci­sion could be made in sec­onds. The range is now com­plete, with “the con­sumer re­spected in the life­style choices they want to make”.

I’ll share more of the new wines as we inch to­wards Christ­mas, but for now, the very ad­e­quate and friendly au­tumn warmer Smooth Red is 100% mer­lot and pro­duced in Spain. Rasp­berry jam. Straw­berry jam. Jam, jam, jam. This wine is dot­ted with spice but if it’s a fruity au­tumn warm­ing wine you want at a rea­son­able price, then there you go.

■ Jane is a mem­ber of the Cir­cle of Wine Writ­ers. Find her on so­cial me­dia and on­line as One Foot in the Grapes.

Gill Meller, left, and his new book, below

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