Jan 27 2008
This is a diary of my everyday life in a quiet valley in Devon, a story of food, farming and friendship in south west England. For the last four years I have been searching for local produce both cultivated and wild, exploring old culinary traditions and lost skills hoping to hold them for a moment longer before they vanish for ever.
I have lived in this beautiful valley for nearly thirty years now. My story is, quite literally, of fire and flood. It is about how it was and how it is now, and how it may become. It is about arriving in the valley, coaxing an old house back to life, restoring a garden and reuniting the farm land with the house. It is about producing food naturally and preserving old skills whilst watching culinary traditions vanish. It is about starting a business, raising chickens for the table and turkeys for Christmas, of growing vegetables and herbs and gathering the wild food from the hedgerows. It is about Dexter cows and donkeys, about breeding Whiteface Dartmoor sheep, lambing time and harvest. It is about my neighbour’s deer farm and rare breed pigs and my Chilean chickens that lay pale blue eggs. It’s Brixham Fish Quay at four in the morning and salmon fishing on the river Dart. But above all it is about my kitchen and my love of cooking.
It is a long time ago now that I trained as a chef in London. Over the years I have watched both country life and our diet change dramatically and stealthily. Up until the 1960’s we shopped at the butcher, baker, grocer for whatever was available. Most of our food was local and seasonal. We grew herbs and fruit and vegetables in our gardens in the country and on our allotments in the town; we joyfully harvested our little crop. Country people bought direct from local farmers and hunted wild game. They fished in local streams and rivers and searched the sea shore for delicacies. All that is changing now, and as it changes the pleasure, the old skills and the spontaneity of gathering and preparing food is fast disappearing. It feels important to me to try to record these things before they finally vanish forever, slipping silently away.
Sally Vincent, 2007