Every now and then, you come across a book that really makes you smile. Sara Midda’s ‘A Bowl of Olives’ does just that. Midda is an artist who lives in West Sussex (having previously lived in the south of France) and this book is bursting with her beautiful watercolour illustrations
A Bowl of Olives is fairly compact – you might even say handbag sized – perfect for pulling out for a quick read on the bus or the train for a boost of inspiration.
It’s also a very different kind of cookbook – this isn’t a traditional book of recipes. It’s more of an exploration of Midda’s food memories, broken down into the following chapters: To Market, Packaging, Eggs, At The Table, Eating Outdoors, Salads, Food Through The Year, Food Memories, Olives, Fruit, Vegetables, Seasonings and Food Wishes.
Starting off with ‘The Market’, Midda gives us snippets of markets she’s visited around the world, with photos and illustrations. My favourite is from Okinawa, Japan: “We ate in the market, surrounded by barrels of pigs’ trotters, chicken offal. A man kept coins in his ear.” I think this gives you a nice snapshot of the general feel and tone of the book – it’s quirky, pretty and interesting.
I loved the section on napkins. The napkin is such a simple item but just looking at these pretty illustrations, it makes you think about what you can add to a dinner party through simple decor.
Another of my favourites was the picnics section, where she highlights memories of the picnics she’s been on, where they took place and what they ate, ranging from scotch eggs, cold zucchini, potato omelet and ginger beer on the South Downs to sea-salted potato chips with cheese & onion pie on the deck of a ferry:
There are so many lovely anecdotes throughout the book. It ends on the following: “In Japan, wishes are written on strips of paper and attached to tree trunks or branches; where paper and wood interact, desired outcomes might happen.” This reminded me of something we had in Cyprus – people would tie pieces of cloth, handkerchiefs and ribbons to a ‘wish tree’.
As such, what I feel is so great about this book, is that you naturally recall your own memories of the places you’ve visited – your own market experiences, your own picnics. And if you’ve never been to the places Midda draws and writes about, it makes you want to go there. There’s something really magical about that.
I was kindly given the book to review by Ask Her Friends, and if you’d like to take a look at this little gem yourself, it is available to purchase from their website here for £12.99.
I was provided with this book for review purposes by Ask Her Friends but did not receive any payment. All views are my own.