DIARY OF A FRENCH HERB GARDEN

UK Pavilion Books 2002 ISBN 1-86-205-4886 14.99

From the jacket of first edition:

'From Saint-Montan, a picturesque village in the southern Ardeche, comes this delightful portrait of deepest France - la France profonde. Geraldene Holt describes with wit and insight how she created a charming aromatic garden now open to the public.

Mrs Holt exchanges her cooking spoon for her gardening fork and recounts the year she spent restoring a curate's ancient, walled garden in Saint Montan, a medieval village deep in the Ardeche region of southern France.

The account of how the idea came to her, how its design was given the approval by the village council, and how the first herbs were planted, is enchanting. With a genuine love for her task, Geraldene charts the year, month by month, imparting the sheer joy to be derived from cultivating a herb garden. She writes evocatively of the village, the challenges of the Mediterranean climate and the dry, limestone terrain, while offering invaluable practical advice on how to create a charming garden composed entirely of perennial aromatic plants.

Above all, this beguiling book is about spirit of place - an old French village redolent with the summer sun and fragrant with the scent of wild mountain herbs. An inspiring guide for experienced and novice gardeners alike, it is also a delightful story for all lovers of France.'

REVIEWS of DIARY OF A FRENCH HERB GARDEN

"TODAY sees the publication of a book that looks like it will take the food world by storm: Diary Of A French Herb Garden, by Geraldene Holt (above) (Pavilion, GBP 14.99). It tells the tale of how one of our most distinguished food writers fell in love with a small village in the Ardeche in France, and turned a vegetable plot into an aromatic garden.

I started reading my copy after supper one night and it was deep into the night before I could put down this compelling portrait of life in rural France. All the characters are there - the mayor, the village council, the friends who arrive at all hours with cuttings and seedlings. There is a surprise discovery of an ancient irrigation system - and at the end of the book you find the garden plans, so you can even copy parts of the scheme if you have a spare bit of sunny garden.

Needless to say, if you love cooking with herbs, Geraldene has a suggestion or two along the way.

I shall certainly be installing a dish of herbes de Provence beside my stove, to throw into dishes with abandon, as she suggests." Orlando Murrin, Daily Express, 22/06/2002


One morning my eight-year-old picked up this book from my bedside and, after leafing through the printed pages with their lavender-coloured illustrations, instinctively held the book up to her nose and sniffed it.

It struck me as an appropriate thing to do, for here print on the page becomes a thing much greater than itself, in this loving diary of the re-imagining of a neglected jardin du curé to become a community garden for the lucky occupants of a village in the Ardèche.

Geraldine Holt actually created this garden - you can visit it in Saint Montan, where it is open to the public. And even if you can't picture all of the formidable list of plants which she actually planted in this garden, the lovely writing transports you right there, where you can imagine the fragrance of the clove pink, picture the tortoiseshell butterfly landing on a flowering philadelphus, or feel the cold dry air of the Mistral.

It's a hugely practical book too, from both the cook and the gardener's perspective - did you know that winter savory has the ability to replace garlic and pepper in a dish, or that the crucial four main constituents of herbes de Provence are thyme, sage, rosemary and marjoram, or that the trio of fennel, mint and marjoram 'tucked into the body of a freshly caught fish before cooking will complement its flavour superbly.'

The planting list at the back is a boon to anyone creating a potager or aromatic herb garden. And there's even a detailed plan of the garden to concrete the ideas on the page.

If you have your holiday booked, I could not recommend a better companion, a fascinating study on the idea of conceptualizing a garden brought gloriously to life. Smell the flowers! Sally McKenna, Bridgestone Guides, August 2002


In this delightfully presented hard back book the author Geraldene Holt, a highly respected food writer, exchanges her cooking utensils for her gardening fork and describes the year she spent restoring a curate's ancient, walled garden in Saint Montan, a medieval village deep in the Ardeche region of Southern France.

Early in the book she describes her horror when she discovered that the Mayor of the village had started to cut down the Fig trees to make way for a picnic area.

Geraldene's last minute bid to save the garden involved negotiations with the mayor and presentations to the village council. She charts her efforts for the 12 months from September to September with captivating passion, love and humour. She word paints a charming picture of the village and the people who live there, and how she coped with the challenges of the Mediterranean climate, and the lime stone terrain.

The book is peppered with lots of practical advice on how to create a charming garden composed entirely with aromatic herbs. Not only does the book provide us with lots of gardening tips but also Geraldene's cookery background equips her with plenty of knowledge and the ability to impart many culinary tips and advice. i.e. "Juniper bushes dot the hillside, their spiky glaucous foliage producing hard green berries that take two years to ripen to navy blue - yet the wait is worthwhile since the flavour of juniper berries is irreplaceable in game dishes and for flavouring rich terrines" - sounds terrific!

Another example of her graphic word painting is "The perceptible bite in the air is as appetising as a glass of chilled Chablis."

The book considerately and consistently uses common names usually followed by the botanical name. Each chapter deals with a month of the year, and at the end of the book you can find a chapter by chapter listing of all the plants mentioned. Here you can make use of a detailed Planting Plan which will help anyone to replicate all or part of the scheme within their own garden.

I enjoyed the frequent snippets of information e.g. did you know - That in France the 25th of November is known as St. Katherine's Day. This date is regarded as auspicious by all gardeners in France since it marks the point when the rate of growth is almost negligible and so has been considered the perfect time for planting trees and shrubs. The date coincides with the usual date of Tree Week in the UK. The Patron Saint of Gardening is St. Fiarce. Well what do you know!

Before starting to read the book I was not overly enthusiastic about the prospect of reading a Diary. However this inspiring guide for the experienced or novice gardener is also a gripping story of this English woman's love of gardening in France.

I thoroughly enjoyed this inspiring book and would encourage anyone who has an interest in herbs, gardening in general or who simply loves or enjoys France to grab hold of a copy.

Trevor Edwards, Gardeners' Corner (BBC Radio Ulster), 24 September 2002


FRENCH COUNTRY KITCHEN

Preface by M.F.K.Fisher
UK: Penguin Books 1987 ISBN 0-14 046741-6
US: Simon & Schuster 1990 ISBN 0-671-70590

"Geraldene Holt combines unobtrusive erudition with an artist's eye. A delightful book, the 'feel' of the places and people is conveyed with unassuming skill, strongly recommended." Alan Davidson, author of The Oxford Companion to Food, Petits Propos Culinaires

"Her style is unpretentious but skilful; all the recipes are placed in context, and there is a charming companionable air about her work. Outstandingly readable." Alan Davidson, The Times Literary Supplement

"French Country Kitchen is both arresting and beguiling; we have not had a book since Elizabeth David's which so strongly evokes the smells and flavours of rural France. A book to linger over - and one which will induce the salivary glands to work overtime." Colin Spencer, The New Statesman

Geraldene Holt's "philosophy is a perfect one for those who have a concern for what they put in their mouths ... In the tradition of Elizabeth David." Derek Cooper, BBC Food Programme

"The book is a pleasure to read, with its vivid evocation of people, places and events. (There is a) sympathetic blend of art and practicality that marks her writing. It is relaxed, unpretentious and full of exquisitely good things, a treat for those who appreciate elegant simplicity in food." Phillipa Davenport, The Financial Times


RECIPES FROM A FRENCH HERB GARDEN

UK Conran Octopus 1989 ISBN 1-85029-176-4
US Simon & Schuster 1989 ISBN 0-671-67966-X
France Albin Michel 1990 ISBN 2-226-04008-0

"Geraldene Holt is one of the best regional cookbook writers of the century." M.F.K.Fisher

".. as helpful with its gardening instructions as with its recipes. If my lavender ever blooms, I'm going to try the ice-cream with fresh lavender flowers and muscat. " John F. Stacks, TIME magazine

"Another fine and personal book from Geraldene Holt. (Mrs ) Holt is the best kind of teacher, not handing down rigid, hard and fast rules, but instead encouraging individual style and creativity. (She) is an admirable role model, interpreting so sensitively the deeply rooted traditions of the cuisine of the South of France. This is all you want a cookbook to be - wise, personal, beautiful, colorful - all that and great recipes too." Grace Kirschenbaum, International Cookbook Review


THE GOURMET GARDEN

The Fruits of the Garden transported to the Table
UK Pavilion Books 1990 ISBN 1 85 145 450 0
US Bullfinch Press - Little, Brown and Company 1990 ISBN 0-812-1815-8

"Geraldene Holt is a skilled gardener, cook and writer, and her book celebrates that very British fusion between the cult of the garden and the delight in eating. Not a debut but a welcome addition to her oeuvre of gustatory literature." Colin Spencer The Guardian

"... designed to entice conservative, carnivorous English readers into sampling the delights of fruit and vegetables. This is a book that would have made Castevetro faint with pleasure, as Holt says of John Evelyn on a hypothetical visit to Hunstrete. Part gardening manual, part recipe book, part a celebration of what Evelyn called 'English Garden Huswifry ', it explores eight magnificent working gardens. " Hilary Spurling, The Daily Telegraph

"... a hymn of praise for fresh English produce. This is a book that makes you get your grow-bag out and rattle your box of Phostabs. Ms Holt is to be congratulated for producing an entertaining, informative publication that deserves a place in every self-respecting kitchen. " Val Hennessy, The Daily Mail


A CUP OF TEA

An anthology of fine china and tea traditions
UK Pavilion Books 1991 ISBN 0-671-74017-2
US Simon & Schuster 1991 ISBN 0-671-74017-2

" A delightful collection of tributes and recipes, it's illustrated by exquisite watercolour designs for Minton china." Good Housekeepingmagazine

"The freshness of the colours and the delicacy of some of the designs ravish the eye and lift the spirits ... it really is worth the paper it's printed on." Philippa Davenport, Financial Times

"Quite the prettiest book I have seen in a long time." Thane Prince, Daily Telegraph


GERALDENE HOLT'S COMPLETE BOOK OF HERBS

UK Conran Octopus 1991 ISBN 1-85029-325-2
US Henry Holt 1991 ISBN
FRANCE Hatier 1991 ISBN 2 218 049 81 3 Les Fines Herbes
GERMANY Christian Verlag 1991 ISBN Krauter, Krauter, Krauter
DENMARK L&R Fakta 2000 ISBN 87-614-0142-0 Den Store Bog om Krydderurter

Extract from jacket:

"Geraldene Holt has made herbs a part of her life and in her new COMPLETE BOOK OF HERBS she shows us how to grace our gardens, flavour our food, and scent our homes with these versatile plants."

In 1992 the French translation of this edition, under the title Les Fines Herbes , was awarded in the SEB Grand Prix de Cuisine

The word Complete in the title of this book refers to its three parts: Herb Gardening, A Taste of Herbs, and Indoor Herbal . The first two parts were later published separately under the titles Creative Herb Gardening and A Taste of Herbs


GERALDENE HOLT'S COUNTRY HOUSE COOKING

UK Boxtree 1996 ISBN 0 7522 0506 4

Extract from jacket:

I count myself blessed that I have lived most my life in the country, writes the highly acclaimed food writer Geraldene Holt, 'Growing most my own food, and cooking in traditional style aga cooker. I was brought up to cook this way - On what Elizabeth David called "a proper stove" - following the pattern set by my mother, Grandmother and even great Grandmother, All of whom took pride in cooking well and serving fine English food.'

In this collection of some of her favourite recipes, Geraldene Holt shares her enthusiasm for skilled and imaginative cooking with the magnificent, well developed flavours produced in the high, dry heat of a traditional oven, crisp paper thin tarts which taste unbelievably good, the buttery pastry supporting slices of sun - ripened tomatoes flecked with fresh garden herbs; a brace of pheasant baked in a nest of sweet hay a wonderfully mellowed flavour to the meat; and a delicate soufflé omelette with summer fruit. Or sample a menu of creamy saffron and muscle soup, a dish of oven - roasted asparagus, and eighteenth - century English recipe for shoulder of lamb stuffed with spinach and pine nuts.

Beautifully photographed with clear step - by - step instructions and full cooking temperatures for both traditional ranges and present - day cooking in stoves, this is the book to culinary heaven. Weather you are cooking fish, meat, game, poultry, eggs, pasta, or desserts, both novice and experienced cooks will be able to produce classic country food that is cooked with stylish good sense to both satisfy and delight.


THE COOK'S ROOM

ISBN 0 356 20035 3

Extract from jacket:

The cook's room is the heart of the home, and within its walls are prepared the daily meals that sustain and maintain the family. Yet depending on the country and the climate, this room can be small, smoky, and dark, or a haven of warmth and comfort; cool, bare, and functional, or cluttered with provisions and furnishings.

In The Cook's Room eminent writers from around the world describe what it was like to live and work in the traditional home kitchens of their country or region. They write about the atmosphere within the kitchen, the role of the cook in the household, the classic dishes that were prepared, and the way in which cooks all over the world have coped with primitive conditions, adapted to new equipment, and always produced marvellous food.

There are many intriguing sidelights: the ingenuity of the cooks in Alsace, who diverted smoke from the hearth fire through a cupboard in the loft to cure the family bacon; the superstition in the homage paid to stove gods in China or in the haunted Moroccan kitchen. The stunning tiles in Mexican kitchens display both skill and beauty, and in Canada there is pleasure in abundance, in the wealth of seasonal foods.

Each contribution is packed with information, and are all enhanced by the collection of wonderful colour photographs and historical prints, researched and commissioned from sources around the world. The Cook's Room presents an electric view of the traditional kitchen in words and photographs. It is a book to treasure.