My agent always tells me that I have far too many tea parties in my books. Actually I think she means that I spend huge amounts of time telling about chocolate cake and what sort of wine people are drinking and describing three course meals instead of getting on with the story. Up to a point this is true but I enjoy good food and wine and enjoy writing about them and am happy to edit some of it out if I get carried away. Recently I have taken to reading the wonderful stories of Donna Leon and her Venetian detective and the stories are well written and well plotted but the best thing of all about them is that food and wine is described at length and is one of the most important things both about the books and about Venice.
I've been to Venice twice and if I had to live somewhere other than Durham I would choose Venice. Italians have just the right attitude to food, they eat late at night and drink good wine and are the best cooks in the world.
I have Elizabeth David's Italian Food, I bought it many years ago and it's one of the best cookery books I have ever read. I can spend a whole evening reading cookery books even though I rarely cook.
I'm the same with gardening. I read the books which Christopher Lloyd who is the Elizabeth David of the gardening world wrote and Gertrude Jeykll for the way that she turns colour into brilliance. I don't garden very much, Howard does the difficult bits and I make tea and talk about plants and it's really more of a social thing than anything else. Living on your own is okay most of the time but it's very nice to have lots of conversations on subjects you care about. I prefer other people's splendid gardens and to go to Howard and Sharon's walled garden and nursery at Whitworth Hall and see how these things are really done, like I love to go to good restaurants.