I sat down one afternoon earlier this year to read a couple of books randomly pulled off the shelf.
They were Annie’s Farmhouse Kitchen by Annie Smithers, which is a beautiful, watercolour-illustrated set of seasonal menus of traditional French recipes, and Stephanie’s Journal, the diary Stephanie Alexander kept in 1997 chronicling her year of closing Stephanie’s the restaurant, and opening of Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder, and all the foodie/gardening tidbits of her life in between.
Annie used to work for Stephanie and I didn’t know that until I picked up these two books to read on the same day, one after the other, quite by accident.
After reading them both, it hit me: the idea for book I’ve always wanted to write but couldn’t figure out which format it would take. I mean, I’ve had plenty of ideas but there was always one that felt elusive – like a recipe book but also with stories – that I couldn’t quite articulate. I’m no expert in anything except eating, and I like writing blog-style most of all, rather than technical. So how would they come together, and more importantly – would anyone even read it or find it useful?
And so what I realised I wanted to read was a combination of these two books: A seasonal diary of food, gardening, travel, and life. A little journal of domesticity, with recipes I make throughout the year, and sweet, homely watercolour illustrations, beautiful photographs, and bits about kitchen gardens and the native environment that I love. And so THAT’S the book I’d like to write, because that’s the book I’d like to read. A real Australian’s meander through the year, simple and comforting, with real, easy, non-fancy everyday recipes and maybe a knitting or crochet pattern thrown in for good measure.
Funnily, a few days after that revelation, I dreamed I was on holiday with Annie Smithers, whom I’ve never met, and had never heard of until that weekend. Think of the thousands of cookbooks I’ve ever read, and I’ve literally never dreamed of the author, ever. Come to think of it, I’ve only ever dreamed of one author, and it was that one time I dreamed about John Safran and me going on a date (to the State Library of all places, I’m a nerd even in my dreams) and I had to show my ID to Jacquie Lambie. Maybe in my next dream Annie will present me with four loaves of Turkish bread, just like Dream John did.
When I opened Instagram after breakfast, Annie’s happy face smiled up at me from the very first image in my feed.
Not one to ignore such hints from the universe, I decided to just write the damn book, take the photographs, collect the recipes, scribble down snippets of my days, in the hope that one day I will turn it into something you’d like to read.
Wish me luck!