‘If the children grow it themselves, they’re more likely to eat it’: “These are peas,” says a tiny girl in a red bucket hat, her face a tapas of freckles. “We eat them for snack time. They just taste like ordinary peas; like you’d eat for your dinner.” I am standing in the Marlborough School allotment, tucked into the side of a sunny hill in Falmouth, Cornwall, surrounded by children no taller than my hip, as they chew on nasturtiums, studiously check the soil temperature and throw themselves on to the grass beside a bed of carrots to look for slugs. This is where groups of Marlborough students, aged five to 11, and their parents, come and grow their own courgettes, broad beans, kale, carrots and herbs, all to end up in their school dinners.
London restaurants – at tipping point? I can still recall the details of a conversation 15 years ago with my friend Danny Meyer, the successful New York restaurateur, photographed above at his restaurant Maialino by Melissa Hom. He was explaining his role, and in particular one aspect of its many different challenges. ‘I have to point out to many of my younger colleagues who have joined USHG [the Union Square Hospitality Group] over the past decade that trade does not necessarily get better; that every new opening is not necessarily full immediately after it has opened; and that, as is now the custom with financial products, the value of everything we launch can go down as well as up.’
‘I’m a big guy. I know what to do’: Gordon Ramsay: Gordon Ramsay’s hands are looking for something to do. He taps and drums them on the tabletop. He puts them in his pockets. He sits on them a few times. Restless hands would seem an advantage for a chef. But Ramsay, who shot to fame 20 years ago as one of the best — and sweariest — young chefs in London, is rather more famous for cooking from the mouth.
Resisting the Influence of Social Media’s Biggest Pushers: Hospitality is one of our oldest rituals; within it a host of similar-but-not-quite-the-same concepts bump uneasily up against one another. A true gift — where nothing is expected in return — is not the same as delayed exchange (when you’ll get something back, at some point); delayed exchange is not the same as bartering, in which the transaction takes place immediately and explicitly.
‘Spices are a good way to tell kids where food comes from’: We moved here a couple of years ago. It is an old railway cottage, long and narrow – a funny-shaped house. Railway workers used to get free coal, so instead of an attic, we have a large cellar with a hole in the outside wall, through which they must have poured it in. We have plans to knock through a wall to expand the kitchen. For now though, we have a big mirror on one side, which makes the space at least feel bigger, with a huge table in front of it. I don’t know how the previous owners got it in here – they must have built it in.
Jefford on Monday: Value in the Langhe: Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my continuing search for great co-operative wineries. The co-operative ideal is a beautiful one: fair pricing; common endeavour; shared rewards. I admit, though, that my reasons for the quest are not wholly disinterested.I love to buy good wine, but I’m not rich. The top wines of outperforming co-operatives offer some of the best value in today’s wine world. In particular, when you find a great co-operative in a classic region, then you can call on an unrivalled source of affordable, dependable wine from proven terroir, as those who follow the wines of La Chablisienne in Chablis and the Cave de Tain in Tain l’Hermitage will know.
Grape drying in Italy’s Veneto:The grapes laid out on bamboo racks seem alive, turning on their bunches like dark worms. Each berry eases back from its neighbour before it shrivels and grows ever more juiceless. Finally they fall still, static, raisined. This is what three months of time-lapse photography will show you of the ancient process of appassimento (grape drying). It has been a speciality of Italy’s Veneto region for almost 1,500 years, first described in the early 6th century by Cassiodorus, a civil servant of Theoderic the Great.
Moveable feasts: the night markets of the Aveyron, France: It’s a hot night. We’re making our way through the medieval streets of Villefranche-de-Rouergue, an ordinary town in the French department of the Aveyron. This is the heart of the rural south-west, la France profonde, a poor region on the edge of the massive, unforgiving limestone plateaux. It’s a long way from motorways and TGV connections and urban centres; it’s not well marked on tourist maps.