Naume, the mad bastard, took my gardening virginity in 1986. Wild, Macedonian and permanently pissed, he applied for the position of gardener to supply my restaurant, La Chaumiere and then Aviemore, with the perfect produce I craved but wasn’t able to find anywhere. Naume if you’re still alive, I expect to be hearing from your lawyers (or probably cousins) for writing this. Nevertheless, give me a call and lets see if we can’t relive the early glory days. You are an absolutely pivotal part of my Cooking DNA. Thank you for your magical gardening touch; your early morning, winter, blood warming homemade grappas; your suspicion of chemicals; the end of day garlic and chilli open fire grills by the garden, after “working like animals”; for finding an old coin in my garden, quitting and coming back when you discovered it was worthless; the bagpipe you made from a skinned sheep which not only retained the sheep’s shape, but some of it’s sounds, as we danced like “Bratkos” around an open fire, pagan-like and intoxicated with your mate Kris (who we did not impregnate); for sharing the secrets of how to sire a daughter and the different technique to siring a son (By the way, we have two of each). “When Naume put’s stick in ground to write sign… Stick Grows!” Mate, I couldn’t have put it better.
Naume and I actually did work like animals, and somehow through a kind of earthy osmosis I learned his ways. No explanations provided, I just shadowed the maestro and followed his combination of backbreaking, human, earthmoving feats, delicate dexterity handling seedlings and applying black magic potions of fish head and cow manure brews according to the moon which, incidentally played a part in determining the sex of my children (according to Naume)… The moon, not the potion.
So, I dedicate this section to Naume. You laid the bed and seeded my connection with the soil, the moon, plants and their needs. I follow this path even now.
What is a garden? For me, it was something that had existed in my imagination for a long time, something I imagined would form that vital connection between the food I was creating and my need for the most amazing ingredients for my culinary expression. But a garden is more than a few well tended rows of vegetables. It’s the aspect, the soil texture and composition, it’s how it will be watered and nurtured, protected from the elements and exposed to the things that make it thrive. It’s pipes and sprinklers, glasshouses and compost, seeds and trees, vines and tubers. It’s spades and hoes, tractors and slashers, scythes and pruning shears… and that’s just for starters.
Come with me on my journey and see how it’s done.