On the Sofa with Gill Meller

On the Sofa with Gill Meller


Welcome to The Edinburgh Bookshop and we’re
really glad to have on the sofa today Gill Meller with your beautiful new recipe book
Time. Would you like to tell us a bit about the book? Yes, certainly Kate, thanks very much
for having me on the sofa, it’s very nice to be here. So, this is my second recipe book.
Time is all about the day. It follows the path from morning through ’til night from
the front of the book to the back. It’s about the kitchen – it very much celebrates the kitchen as a
space and a place. It’s a lot to do with food memory and looking back at time, particularly
my own time in the kitchen growing up, and the sort of experiences I’ve had in that space
with my friends or family or something my Mum cooked. There’s a lot of going back to
food from my past. I suppose in many ways that kind of makes sense, because we don’t
really know what the future holds and the present doesn’t last for very long, so everything
we know and everything that shapes us as people is from our past, and for me as a chef, my
food experiences really helped to define who I am. So, it’s a very personal book, in the
sense that I talk about my own experiences with food, but at same the time time I like
to think it’s a fairly approachable and conventional cookery book that people can pick up and really
use every day. The recipes are really easy and homely and they’re the sort of things that I really
love to eat and make. Great, great. So, I have now, some questions for you from The Cat in the Hat’s hat – would you like to pick one? For sure, thank you. Rummage round in there!
Okay, so shall I read this out? “What has been the best thing about meeting readers
of your books – any stand out moments?” Well that’s quite a good question. I do meet quite
a lot of people who have read my work because I work at River Cottage every so often, so
the books that I’ve been involved with making for River Cottage are quite well read, so
I’ll meet a lot of people through that, but it’s only in the last few years, as I say,
that I’ve been doing my own stuff, so occasionally I get to meet people who really just know
about me as an independent food writer, and it is wonderful to meet people who have your
book or have read your book or have cooked something from your book, and take the time
to tell you that they enjoyed it, or they reflect on something that I’d mentioned in
the book, or they say that they’d cooked this dish for their family and it went down really
well. Positive feedback – everyone likes that, no matter what they’re doing. So I really value
it, I’ll take it whatever it is – you know, critical or not – and try and make the
most of the feedback. Yeah it is great to meet people, the more people I get to meet
the better. An evening like tonight is a great example of trying to meet a few of the people
that like what you’re doing, and getting good feedback so I’m looking forward to the talk
later. Yeah good – great. Want another question? Absolutely, thank you. “Did I learn anything
new from writing this book?” Um, yes! I mean, to be honest with you, anyone who spends time writing about anything learns something. Even if it’s a subject that you know really well,
going through the process helps to ingrain that particular approach or technique or view
on yourself, so I think just the process of writing something down, as well all know – that’s
how we learn, we study, we write things down – so yeah I learnt a lot. But I also learned a lot
about me and my past, and I reflected on, as I said earlier, a lot of my childhood experiences in
food, and some of them I dredged up from places that I didn’t know existed any more. Things
I’d eaten, and written about in the book, reminded me of whole episodes that I hadn’t
thought of for a long time. During the process of writing the book, my Mum passed away, which was hugely sad, and the fact that she never saw the book is a real shame. But writing the book really helped me to process that – in the sense that I was talking a lot about
her and the things she was cooking for me as I was growing up, so I, weirdly, kind of
learned how to take that grieving and deal with it in a kind of positive way, for want
of a better word; to channel it into something that I felt marked that passing in a good way.
So I learned that as well. Yeah – yeah. No, it was good, it was good.
Yeah, her legacy goes into it. In a sense yeah. I mean, as I said, all our experiences growing up in the kitchen at home, they’re so important to who we are as people – they really are. And it’s nice to reflect on that every so often.
Yeah, definitely. So I definitely learnt something new in that sense. And I also feel that I learned what
not to do, if you know what I mean. The more you do something, the more you learn what’s
right for you and what’s not. So you learn a lot about what you don’t…
Yeah ‘Don’t do that again!’… necessarily want to do. So that was good. Wow, really a lot.
Yeah definitely. It was a great project to work on. It was a long time in the making – like 16 months we spent across the project, from conception to publication.
I love taking time over things like this, creative projects – it’s great
not to rush them, fantastic that my publisher is so generous and allows me the time to do
that. But I think you can tell the difference between a book that’s been rushed or put together
very quickly, photographed in a block of days, sometimes I think you can tell. But
I’m particularly keen that if we’re doing food photography and it’s a seasonal cookbook
that you really do that genuinely, you know. So, to shoot a food book over a year is the
most sensible thing, in my opinion. Yeah especially when that is your real focus for
the book. Well yeah, I mean of course a lot of books are nothing to do with seasonal cookery but I’m a big advocate of it and I think it makes for a better way of cooking. So it always feels right to honour that in the book and how it’s made. That’s really good – that you got to.
Yeah definitely. One more question from the hat? Sure, thank you. “What have
I enjoyed reading recently?” Well I’ve literally just finished The Goldfinch – have you read it? I haven’t – it’s on the list; it’s on the To Be Read list. Yeah, a fantastic novel,
really, really loved it and couldn’t really put it down, although I did put it down – I
read it in stops and starts but that was only because I was working and then away and things,
and there just wasn’t time but I loved it, really loved it: the story, and the narrative,
and how wonderfully descriptive the author was. That’s what I’ve just finished reading.
Of course I’m reading, I’m always looking at different cookbooks, and there seems to
be a lot being published all the time and luckily I do actually get the occasional one
sent so me so I’m constantly kind of seeing what’s going on, what people are writing about,
what the pictures are looking like. It’s one of those classic things that when you’re in
the business, you really want to know what everyone else is doing, not for any other
reason than curiosity. So yes, lots of cookbooks too. And you have lots in here, so it’s very
nice to have a browse of the shelves. We’ll let you loose in that section in a minute.
So, it’s always a cruel question when you’re right in the middle of thinking about this
one, but what is next for you? So, funnily enough, a few days ago we had a kind of brainstorming session for the next book – me and Andrew, who is the photographer for my books, we spent a day knocking a few ideas about. We do have a plan, we’ve got another book due so we were
just kind of finalising some thoughts on it. It’s very much about the land, and growing,
and reconnecting ourselves with where food comes from and the soil and the earth, and
I suppose it’s to some extent maybe about trying to grow a few of your own ingredients,
possibly – it might just be a few herbs on the windowsill but that act is something we
are becoming in danger of being disconnected from. So it might have that kind of theme running
through it; again, lots of beautiful photography; lots of accessible recipes; probably a lot
of vegetarian food given the nature of the book and what it’s about – the earth and plants
and growing and things. So it’s exciting, and again, will take probably a year to photograph
it and write it, so yeah, Spring 2020 you have to look out for it! Good, sounds really
good. Yes, and meanwhile, of course, we have Time, out now – a perfect [whispers] Christmas
present, dare we suggest. I think it would be, I think it would make a good one! Yeah, grab a copy. Quadrille is the publisher, and um, could be just the thing! Absolutely.
Thank you so much for coming to see us today. Thank you very much, no worries – pleasure, thank you .

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