It is the recounting of human adventure of the noblest kind, of dreams fuelled by self-determination and a passion for learning, of a yearning not just to make a living but to live life to its fullest, with passion and sheer hard work, in a setting where nature is at its rawest and human relations at their warmest and, through this book, of a will to share this enriching experience with us through inspiring text and sumptious recipes.
In the first part of the book, Toby and Paulie, featured in BBC2's documentary `An Island Parish', describe their peregrinations through life which have led them to fall in love and finally settle in St Martin's. Toby's rich and lyrical descriptions, coupled with his fabulous photos of seascapes and portraits of local characters, are so vivid that you can almost feel the sea-spray, smell the gorse, hear the seagulls....Paulie tells of his fascinating travels around the world, learning with every moment new ingredients, new culinary techniques and new savors to implement, only to be drawn back to the island like a homing pigeon to try them out in the pub's kitchen.
Throughout the book we can feel the sense of belonging, the sense of communion with the other islanders who are also striving to contribute to the islands' livelihood and the deep feeling of gratitude to be accepted and embraced by this warm community.
And as the first part of the book draws to a close, with the beautiful photo of the departure of the last tripper boat cutting through the sea-mist, we are filled with a sense of longing, not unlike that felt at the end of an episode of an Island Parish, to find out what happens next.
Reading the recipes in the second half of the book takes on a different significance once the first part has been read. These are not just descriptions of ingredients and instructions of how to put them together, these are the rewards of trials and tribulations, of iterations of experimentation and customer feedback, of inventiveness and alchemy, of the orchestration of carefully nurtured ingredients. I am eager to get cracking on the bread recipes, to experience, just like Toby, the wonder of seeing the yeast work its magic. Inspired by the mouthwatering photographs, I can't wait for the weekend to jump on my bicycle and cycle to the local market in search of noble ingredients, herbs and spices to cook and in doing so bring into my home some part of this dream, of this good life, that many of us yearn to seize but few of us have the folly, guts or gusto to go out and get.