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