GERALDENE HOLT

The realisation that making things with my hands brings me contentment dispelled adolescent dreams of becoming an actress or a politician and led to my training as a studio potter, later qualifying as a teacher. Eventually I set up my own workshop in the old farm buildings of our thatched house in the west of England.

But my life changed during the winter of 1978 when a blizzard swept through my rickety workshop. The melting snow destroyed dozens of unfired pots; in despair I took refuge in my warm kitchen where I consoled myself by baking a vast spread of loaves, cakes and biscuits for my husband and children. A day or so later I woke with an absolute conviction: that I should bake some extra cakes and scones and take them to my local market to sell - which would, at least, pay a few bills while I cleared up the debris in my pottery workshop.

As it turned out, my new career began on a wobbly table in the Pannier Market of Tiverton in Devonshire. My cakes, scones, biscuits and cookies walked off the stall! Everything was always sold before mid-day, and I even found myself scribbling out recipes for enquiring customers. Quite soon, a publisher suggested I record the recipes for a wider audience. At the end of the year I gave up my cake stall and wrote a cookery book about it: Cake Stall (Hodder and Stoughton 1980, Penguin 1983).

This led to a second title - Travelling Food (Hodder and Stoughton 1982), and then a third Budget Gourmet (Hodder and Stoughton 1984, Penguin 1985 ). In 1984 I was invited to become a founder member of the Guild of Food Writers. My fourth book French Country Kitchen (Penguin 1997) brought me an American readership. I began to write regularly for magazines and newspapers. For 12 years I contributed to Homes and Gardens magazine, and also wrote for the Daily Telegraph and the Independent on Sunday newspapers. My monthly column on growing food in Taste magazine won a prize for outstanding journalism in the Bookseller magazine.

My first book devoted to herbs, Recipes from a French Herb Garden, was published in numerous foreign editions. Its successor, Geraldene Holt's Complete Book of Herbs, was awarded the 1992 SEB Grand Prix de la Cuisine - the first time this prestigious French prize had been won by a British author.

For the last few years I have been making a herb garden for my village in the south of France. My latest book Diary of French Herb Garden published by Pavilion Books is an account of a year in the life of this garden.

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