A Day with Annie Smithers
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
– William Carlos Williams
This is seemingly ridiculous, I understand, to begin a few words on a cook book by drawing on the past work of a celebrated American poet.
Bear with me though and picture the scene: autumn leaves, tall trees, sky a brilliant blue, the gentle smell of coffee, the sounds of chooks and geese in the background, and we have arrived at Annie Smithers farm. Williams’s poem so aptly fits here because everything about Annie’s food, garden and home is simple. It’s easy. Grow the best vegetables, know here your meat comes from, cook using those ingredients and create a simple meal for sharing and reflecting over.
Smithers’s restaurant garden, the creation of which was diarised in her book, Annie’s Garden to Table, is a wonderful spread. There are rows of plants, there is mulch, a glass house, chooks, green grass, shade, trees growing and plants I do not recognise. Who would know that asparagus plants are so big and have red berries? Who would think that turnips picked straight from the garden and salted would be so sweet? Who would really appreciate that this is all new to Annie. She is not a farmer, but here because of her absolute belief that food must be accessible and must be fresh, is a garden brimming with produce.
Smithers’s wonderful cook book records all the trials and successes of growing and eating from the garden through the seasons. Now that I have seen her garden, I understand the continual work required for this all to work. This is a lifestyle decision.
Annie’s honesty and enthusiasm is contagious. Her food is delicious. Her generosity of spirit shines through the very great gift that she gives us – her food, and consequently her book. I finished the day thinking that three years, in the end, is not long to wait for asparagus to come from my garden. In the meantime, I’m leaving her book out. I want to be able to refer to it often.
Annie is coming to our Hawthorn shop on Tuesday 1 May at 6.30pm. If you are passionate about your own backyard bounty and eating food that is simple, join us. Bookings essential: 9819 1917.
Christine Gordon is the Events Coordinator for Readings and is a committee member of The Stella Prize.