Thursday, 4 November 2010

Writing about your Passions

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.
A week after my birthday - I had five weeks to celebrate being sixty and somebody suggested to me last week that when I'm seventy I should spent a whole year celebrating which sounds fine to me - they took me to the Black Bull at Frosterley in my beloved Weardale. It was cold and dark outside but in this restaurant and pub the open fires were burning.
The wine list was short and the merlot we chose was so thick it was like drinking fruit. The food was what used to be called nouvelle cuisine except that the portions were big. Decorative and wonderful to taste. Perfect. The Black Bull is run by Diane and Duncan Davis and their three children. The food is sourced locally, the beer comes from breweries at Allendale and Durham. The chef, I am told, is Mr Davis himself, a genius with food and his wife runs front of house. She's lovely. She let me go back and take photographs the day after I'd  been there for dinner.
Above the bar the pub's own peal of bells.  The floors have pieces of Frosterley marble laid in among the flags. I spend my summers in the dale and will be making many more trips the short distance to this wonderful restaurant.
Also for my birthday I went to the Fat Buddha in Durham, one of my favourite places - very often during the week I go drinking red wine in there and the food is excellent. A friend took me, last weekend, to a place called The Dudley Arms in a tiny Yorkshire village called Ingleby Greenhow. The pub is next to the butcher's shop and I call that a match made in heaven because the butcher owns the pub. The restaurant is like a huge barn and has its own gallery where people can eat. I had one of the best steaks I have ever eaten and a friend to drive me home. What more can anybody ask of a birthday?


  1. You certainly know how to celebrate. But we always knew that. Belated happy post birthday. Wx

  2. Thanks, Wendy, lovely to see you last week.
    Jan, I hope the party goes well next week, thanks for that.