Rhubarb Rhubarb collects the witty, wide-ranging correspondence between Leiths-trained cook Mary Jane Paterson and award-winning gardener Jo Thompson. Two good friends who found themselves in a perfect world of cupcakes and centrepieces, they decided to demystify their own skills for one another: the results are sometimes self-deprecating, often funny, and always enlightening.
Jo would find herself one day panicking about what to cook for Easter lunch: a couple of emails with Mary Jane and the fear subsided, and sure enough, a delicious meal appeared on the table. Meanwhile, Jo helped Mary Jane combat her irrational fear of planting bulbs by showing how straightforward the process can be.
The book is full of sane, practical advice for the general reader: it provides uncomplicated, seasonal recipes that people can make in the midst of their busy lives, just as the gardening tips are interesting, quick and helpful for beginners. Mary Jane shares secrets and knowledge gathered over a lifetime of providing fabulous food for friends and family, while Jo’s expertise in beautiful planting enables the reader to have a go at simple schemes with delightful results.
Mary Jane Paterson trained at Leith’s Cookery School where she completed the one-year diploma. She worked at various places including at the English Gardening School at Stoneacre in Kent creating feasts for trainee gardeners. Since then she has taken on various culinary projects including hosting cooking days at her house in Sussex, most notably with CJ Jackson who runs Billingsgate fish school. In the last few years she fulfilled a life long wish to go to drama school. She ended up with a certificate and a little more stage fright than when she started. Her love of food is legendary, her fare is fabulous and everyone looks forward to going to her dinners. Her first rather sad culinary adventure was documented in her mother’s novel, Yadav-A Roadside Love Affair.
Jo Thompson is one of the UK’s leading garden designers, which came as much as a surprise to her as it does to everyone who knows her. She is renowned for her exquisite planting and innate sense of place. Jo’s Wedgwood Garden won a gold medal at the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show, and she has won numerous other awards including a smattering of Chelsea golds. Apart from being a full time designer, she lectures and writes for the Sunday Times.
This is a delightful epistolary year long guide to delicious food and beautiful plants exchanged between two friends, both very knowledgeable in their respective fields. Full of recipes and illustrations of plants, this book is both enjoyable to read and useful in both the kitchen and the garden.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.