Fasting and Feasting

Somewhere around the end of last year I saw Fast and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray by Adam Federman listed in a best of books list and added it to my very long list of books to read that I keep in notes. And there it sat. But when I was in Powells in April on a trip I decided to look for it and they had it and I bought it. I’m so glad I read this book.

I knew nothing about Patience Gray prior to reading this book, but as I read and learned about her life I found her fascinating. I want to find a copy of Honey from a Weed and most of the other things she wrote, because I want to experience her own words. She lived a very counter cultural life from the very beginning, having children out of wedlock during World War II, raising them while working during the 1950s, and then leaving England to live abroad with her partner in the 1960s.

Gray wasn’t an easy woman, she didn’t always come off well, she spoke her mind, she could be incredibly selfish, but she strived for a simple life filled with writing, art, and good food. I found her story very compelling, working in tech I often hear people talk about their “get away from it all” dreams and here is a woman who did just that. She worked with editors on her books via a mail service that wasn’t the quickest or the most reliable. She lived in a remote part of Italy and grew most of her own food. And somehow she made all of that work for her. That’s what’s amazing to me.

I’m in no way saying I want to be like Gray, I’m not sure I would live life the same way, but I do want to live with the same type of conviction about the type of life I want. This book was inspirational in that way, showing a person who didn’t just follow along with what was expected but rather did what she wanted.

“Are you not aware that things that really matter to you are not relegated to the past?” Patience continued, delivering one of her many object lessons. “They belong to the present.” (p 65)