Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Patience Gray: Honey From A Weed (Part 2)

Patience Gray (late period photo)

     Honey From A Weed is such a special, unusual book, that it is impossible to complete its consideration in a single blog entry.  A few more short excerpts follow, which I think still accords with copyright fair use doctrine.  I should mention that the book, which was originally published in 1986 by Prospect Books in England and Harper and Row in the United States (I own a 1990 North Point Press copy), is easy to acquire through Amazon and other online booksellers.

Angelica archangelica litoralis  

From Edible Weeds section:


ANGELICA      angelica
Angelica archangelica & A sylvestris     family APIACEAE
angelica (C)     zavirna (Sal)

Both these angelicas grow wild near abandoned ruins and damp places.  In February the Salentines go feverishly in search of them.  This is the moment when the incipient flower-heads are still enclosed in their sheaths right up against the greenish-purple stem.  You cut these sheaths with a knife.

ZAVIRNE FRITTE.  Boil the sheaths for a few minutes, leave them in water for an hour, drain and dry.  Dip in beaten egg and then in flour.  Fry in hot oil.  Aromatic and faintly sweet.

ZAVIRNE ABBRUSTOLITE.   Set the sheaths on a grill over a hot braise, and after a few minutes turn them over.  Slice them across, making two or three cuts, and serve with a dressing of olive oil and a few drops of wine vinegar, and a pinch of salt.  With a glass of wine before a meal, agreeable to the palate.  Abbrustolito (singular) means lightly roasted.

AS SALAD.  Boil some salted water, and throw into the pan an equal number of sheaths of angelica, dwarf garden-grown broccoli heads and the points removed from the head of a cluster of cicoria asparago.  Boil fast for 4 or 5 minutes, drain and dress with olive oil and a little wine vinegar.  Eaten hot or cold, this dish is pleasant in both taste and colour, a vivid green.

Angelica sylvestris (wild angelica)

II.  Mediterranean people value 'bitterness' in weeds, as once did all European peoples.  On Naxos, on a restricted winter diet, everyone suffered from appalling pains in the liver region, deriving not only from monotonous diet but also from impure water and the terrible north wind.  The Sculptor and I soon discovered the benefit conferred by weeds.

Chi vo far 'na bona zena            Who wants to eat a good supper
i magn'un erb'd'tut la mena       should eat a weed of every kind

Naxos in winter

Braised potatoes and peppers with bay (related preparation to Patates Vidues)

From Potato Dishes and Egg Dishes section:

PATATES VIDUES      'widowed' potatoes

1 kg (2 1/4 lb) firm potatoes                       for the picada
1 large onion                                             olive oil
2 big tomatoes                                          4 grilled almonds
1 teaspoon sweet paprika pepper               1 soupspoon of pine kernels
a bayleaf                                                  1 peeled clove of garlic

Peel the potatoes and slice them thinly.  Hash the onion minutely, brown it in a heavy pan in olive oil, then add the peeled tomatoes.  Crush them in the pan, cook them for 5 minutes and put in the paprika pepper and the bayleaf.  Add the potatoes, just cover them with cold water, add salt, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes, covered.

     Pound the picada to a paste in the mortar, dilute with a little of the potato liquor, and pour it into the pan.  Cook for another 15 minutes uncovered, by which time the liquor should have been reduced into a sauce, the potatoes remaining unbroken.


From Fungi and Michelangelo section:

FUNGHI TRIPPATI        boleti cooked like tripe

She sliced them fine like tripe, simmered them in oil with garlic, mountain savory, thyme, parsley, seasoned them with salt and black pepper, adding a spoonful or two of  tomato sauce she had bottled and a little stock from boiling the carcase of a scraggy hen.  This was simmered and reduced.  When fairly dense, some grated pecorino  was added -- her lunch, eaten with some slices of rough bread.

Errico Malatesta (1853-1932)

From Two Kinds of Kindred Spirit section:   

      A shoemaker in Carrara kept an open door for anyone who wished to consult his library of anarchist writings -- Cafiero and Malatesta -- while he carried on mending a pyramid of shoes in a dilapidated little workshop.  This man practised what others preach.  Inheriting as a young man an estate in Castelnuovo di Magra, he gave the land to the people who were working it, and went away to work in Germany, so as not to embarrass them in their possession of it.  Years later it was the best worked land in that part of Versilia.

      An anarchist who often climbed up the muletrack to La Barozza always placed a copy of Umanita on the kitchen table before saying Hullo.  This was the man, taunted by the blackshirt fascist 'mani morti' (dead hands) for queuing with his famished companions at the entrance of the Opera House during the war , who replied:  Credete voi che siamo soltanto affamati per il pane e la minestra? Siamo anche affamati per l'Arte!  (Do you imagine that we are only famished for bread and broth?  We are also famished for Art!)


Carlo Cafiero (1846-1892)

Anarcho-Syndicalism/Anarcho-Communism Flag


Angelica archangelica on Swedish postage stamp

Apulian Bell Krater, 4th century BC, Cleveland Museum of Art

Winter in Naxos 2

Winter in Naxos 3

Umanita Nova (1920-22)(1945- present)

Castelnuovo di Magra

This post is dedicated to Tom and Angelica Clark


  1. Aliki and I were potato sacks for halloween!!! And the recipe involves potatoes!!! YAY!!

  2. Jane is awesome (Jane wanted me to write this)

  3. 1. I am incredibly impressed that you were potato sacks. Balance is everything (and the appearance of being off-balance is what makes balance understandable).

    2. Jane IS awesome. You can either regard this as a father's proud agreement OR a command from Jane to me to write this.

    All that aside, I think that at some point you (since you are such a good writer who expresses feelings so clearly) would absolutely love Patience Gray's writing. For me, reading her is like opening my window on a great morning and feeling everything good and new come in (even though she's writing about the past).

  4. As I always say, there is nothing like a bit of wild Angelica to sharpen up one's morning.

    (Many thanks, Curtis, you sweetie you.)

    Oh and by the way, having just now received a special messenger delivery cheque from one J. Roberts, I am disposed to report that our investigations have revealed that... Jane is awesome.

    And that's not just random awesome, either.

  5. Thanks so much. I'm glad you found adn liked this. Curtis