Over Christmas we drove out to the Alps to stay with friends. There had been a heavy snowfall in November but none at all since. The snow from that early fall was piled by machine on the resort pistes to form packed and icy strips of white through the largely snow-free and seared grassy mountainscape. It was down these playground-like slides that the myriad, ever-hopeful skiers slipped and sometimes crashed.
We took ourselves off and set out to climb an alp instead. Behind the 70’s chalet where we were staying rose the 2170m bulk of Pointe de Nantaux. The track started gently enough, zigzagging through tall pine forest, past abandoned stone and wood huts, clearing the mist to reach pasture of such precipitous pitch it was surprising the glass could cling to the slope.
After three and a half hours of seriously strenuous effort, we gained the summit. On the top was a metal cross set in a concrete footing inscribed with the phrase ‘ici regnent le silence et la paix’ In fact it was freezing cold and windy up there and felt very high and exposed. Quickly pulling on coats and hats, gloves, snapping pictures of each other we soon turned and made our way back down, swallowing hard at the slope which somehow seemed even steeper than it had appeared climbing up.
As I walked down I was struck by the effort invested in raising that cross and that message on the top of the peak. There must be tens, if not hundreds, of peaks with similar messages and recognitions.
Albert Camus viewed nature as impartial and merciless and considered that it was only against this backdrop that man could feel his humanity. Each age forms its own unique view of the world and it is my regret that we often now seem to trivialise and re-package nature to suit the entertainments of our time. When in fact, each tiny cell that forms our miraculous bodies; every molecule of air that we breathe; each drop of moisture that moistens life and each crumb of food that powers life, all come from the earth.
We are made from the place where we live.
And despite years of searching, scientists have yet failed to find another planet they know capable of supporting the delicate complexity of life that we live among and often take for granted.
On this blog I won’t treat landscape as cosy and sweet, often lesser in sophistication to city culture, but rather as subtle, complex and often tough. In April I publish my first solo book on the subject of food and landscape. It is called Gather | Cook | Feast and for it I have created recipes that feel like particular places. And so, here I will be writing about food and how it’s grown, about cooking and serving food, and about human culture and a sense of place.
I hope you enjoy coming on this journey with me. Exploring the wonder and privilege of being born at this time on this planet.