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The Midsummer Garden by Kirsty Manning
This is the debut novel by Manning, who in a previous life was a travel journalist and the co-writer of a recipe book. The author notes state ” Kirsty loves cooking and has several heirloom pots. With her husband Kirsty is a partner in an award winning wine bar in Melbourne”.
Pip Arnet has only recently moved in with Jack, in a cottage on his family’s vineyard in Tasmania. Whilst Jack has dreams of buying and expanding the property from his retired parents and starting a family, Pip is being pulled in all directions with the urgent need to complete her PHD in Marine Biology, family commitments, and her part-time job in a swank Hobart restaurant specialising in fresh, seasonal produce. Pip is not just a dish pig, but instrumental in creating new dishes due to her passion and knowledge of flavour enhancing herbs.
The loved up couple receive a set of ancient cooking pots as an engagement present, in which are found centuries old documents written in French. Investigations trace the pots back to previous generations in Paris and the documents include recipes utilising the local herbs of the day.
When Pip chooses to complete her studies rather than travel to Italy with Jack who is following his dream to learn more about wine grapes, their relationship breaks down.
Pip loses herself with deeper involvement in the Restaurant, and her ever developing talents in this area take her to Spain where she trains with another Chef, learning and sharing the knowledge of local paddock-to-plate food preparation, including walking along Camino de Santiago foraging for fresh foods.
As part of her personal journey, Pip completes her study at a French Institute, taking her to Paris where learns more about the recipes that originated from the kitchens at Chateau de Boschaud where a a young lass by the name of Artemis organises and presents the wedding feast for Lord Boschaud, utilising fresh, local herbs back in the late 1400’s.
Pip, of course, meets up with Jack in Tuscany where we learn more about the local produce.
A family situation has Pip urgently return to Tasmania, and leads to an ending that satisfactorily ties up all loose ends which includes kitchen tips from Artemis.
This a good story that is full of the flavours of both rich food and landscapes. The senses are teased with the author’s descriptions of gardens and you can smell the lavender and herbs which are the soul of all the meals mentioned.
My only disappointment was the lack of a recipe for Rosemary Ice Cream!