This was a fairly quick read for me and left me wanting to read more by Annie Smithers, visit her restaurant, do a cooking class with her… and stay a little while on her farm. Part memoir, part recipe book, part instructional on building a hectic but satisfying life, Recipe for a kinder life has become one of my favourite books this year.
As the author describes her life as a chef, her move to the country and subsequent purchasing of property and running of restaurant(s) for which she ambitiously grows all the fresh produce, you can’t help but feel enormous admiration for her ability to work hard and apply her ethics to home life, farming, cooking and being a business person.
What stood our for me were the aspects of caring for the land, respecting Traditional Custodians, and the concepts of treading lightly and wasting nothing. Environmentally sustainable practices were woven throughout the chapters, much as they appear to be woven throughout the author’s life – working with the land rather than against it, hours of tedious weeding by hand to avoid harmful products, being aware of water use and always, always, always thinking of ways to reuse and repurpose rather than wasting resources.
I got tired just reading of all Smithers’ daily tasks associated with animal care, farming, running a restaurant and caring for family but she has a lovely way of philosophising about the choices she’s made and manages to cast a positive view on all the things she squeezes into 24 hours.
Most of all I just liked the writing and I’d read any of Smithers’ works – whatever the subject. The writing was easy to read, poetic at times, and full of vivid descriptions. There is plenty of humour dotted throughout. Two of my favourite examples follow: When making scones, work lightly with the dough. ‘I always think of it as similar to hand washing my smalls, as opposed to scrubbing my work clothes.’ And in the chapter about water, explaining the difference between stock and broth, describing broth as ‘stock with benefits’.
There are plenty of recipes included, to fit with the theme of each chapter. Some of them I will attempt (the ones that fit with various dietary concerns), but to me they were nowhere near the most important feature of the book. I’d recommend this for anyone, city or country dwelling, as a meditation on life and what it means to each of us.