Review of ‘Seasons To Taste’, by David Fine

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

SEASONS TO TASTE - Field to table, past to present

Seasons to Taste is not a recipe book as such but an in-depth look at the story of food production in the Peak District. An amazing amount of knowledge has been harvested from those who really know their onions ... and every other fruit and veg ever to grow hereabouts. Not to mention meat products from rabbit to water buffalo; dairy produce from beastings to cheese; honey, ales and such old favourites as oatcakes, hasty pudding, junket and pobs.

Recollections are narrated in individual voices, with such enthusiasm and natural humour ('bees are brilliant ... none of this tagging or anything') that the interviews produced perhaps ten times more material than space allowed. Chapters include Field, Market and Table, further broken down into sections such as the anonymously credited Poaching, or Milk Rounds (with an unusual use for a chamber pot), while Open or Wrapped hints at a secret batter recipe known to only two people - 'I'm one and the other's dead!'

Here are reminders that pre-technological food production relied on a deep affinity with nature and care for the land. As one farmer says: 'The ironic thing is that we were farming organically but we didn't know it.' Another takes proud pleasure in the edges of his very ancient hay meadow which are 'full of herbs and flowers' - wild vetch, lady's bedstraw, cowslips, bladder campion and orchids.

Farming is in the blood of these contributors, which is why Peak District producers make every effort to carry on in spite of the heartfelt observation that 'there's too much politics in food.' Food for thought in itself.

Generously illustrated and indexed, Seasons to Taste has been funded by the Lottery Heritage Fund. Published by The Farming Life Centre and edited by David Fine, priced £8.50 (ISBN 978-0-955994-10-4).

Review by Julie Bunting


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