8 February 2022 · Behind the Cookbook
Author Jenny Jefferies, a farmer’s wife and mother of two girls, lives in South Cambridgeshire in the UK. She is a vocal supporter of sustainable food production, a passion that led her to publish two books on the subject – For the Love of the Land (2020) and For the Love of the Sea (2021).
For the first book, 40 farmers from all over the British Isles contributed a recipe and a story about what British farming means to them. The book gives first-hand insight into their experience of rearing, growing, and producing food. Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union, wrote the foreword and a proportion of Jenny’s royalties from this book go to The National Literacy Trust.
For its followup, 41 prominent members of the British fish and seafood industry contributed a recipe and a story. From Shetland in the north to the Scilly Isles in the south, British fishers, marine scientists, and conservationists explain the importance of looking after the seas. Marcus Coleman, chief executive of Seafish.org, wrote the foreword. A portion of proceeds from this book go to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, a charity whose lifeboats, crewed largely by volunteers, have saved many thousands of lives in UK waters since it was founded in 1824.
Here Jenny talks about her methods and motivation for bringing together these two books…
I got the idea for For the Love of the Land after I married my husband John, an arable farmer from South Cambridgeshire, and witnessed my first family-run harvest in the summer of 2013. I was so amazed and overwhelmed at all the hard work and passion that goes into producing just a bowl of cereal or a loaf of bread that I felt quite ashamed at my previous ignorance of food provenance. This first-hand experience made me want to share John’s story and those of other farmers.
Looking after and feeding our first child in 2016 was a challenge. John would be driving the tractor in the fields all day and carrying out other essential farming jobs. With a revolving kitchen door, I was left wondering, what on earth do I feed my new young family? This was when the idea of a cookbook came about: an opportunity to share recipes that showcased the wonderful produce that our farmers grow.
But I wanted it to be more than just a cookbook. This was going to be a book that would take the reader on a compelling journey through the agricultural and social history of the British Isles. For the Love of the Land includes 40 recipes and heart-warming words from the farmers themselves, portraying the very special heritage, tradition, and culture that forms the rich tapestry that is British farming. I wanted it to be a real celebration of British farmers and their food.
Meze Publishing believed in the project right from the beginning, when I pitched the idea to them two years ago. They have since helped to turn both of my books into beautiful, timeless works that we are all extremely proud of.
For the Love of the Sea celebrates the British seafood community and their food. In a similar format to For the Love of the Land, 41 individuals and organisations have contributed a recipe and a story about what British fish and seafood means to them. Contributors include fishermen and women, fishmongers, chefs, conservationists, marine scientists, hoteliers, and organisations such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Marine Stewardship Council.
The process of publishing a book is such an immense joy for me. The research, inviting people to come onboard (no pun intended!) obtaining the copy, the photoshoots, proofreading, the PR and marketing – it never stops! Juggling life on the farm with two small children, as well as my main job of marketing our self-catering cottages, along with working on my third and fourth books, is very busy but immensely enjoyable, rewarding, enlightening, and good fun.
Meeting and talking to new and interesting people along the way is what it’s all about: making that connection, engaging with fascinating and truly lovely people. Everyone has a story to tell and to have created the opportunity to share their stories and to help give the farmers and fishermen a voice is incredibly important and satisfying.
Both the agriculture and fishing industries are experiencing challenging and pivotal times. The delicate political sphere and the pandemic has highlighted the extent to which we all depend on our farmers and fishermen. I believe that their work, passion, dedication, and expertise is to be shared and celebrated.
These books fly the flag for sustainability, regenerative agriculture, conservation, food provenance, food culture, and community. They are accessible, informative, and entertaining and they appeal to people from all generations and backgrounds.
I very much hope that my books will help bridge the gap between city and country, food and technology, and between the well informed, and people (like me) who may not be aware of where their food comes from. For one to really enjoy food, one must know how it’s produced.
Sustainable farming and fishing is more important than ever before, and it really does matter. Through collaboration we create wholes that are more than the sum of their parts, and this is one of life’s joys. We must put back more than we’ve taken out and to reconnect with Mother Earth. Regenerative agriculture is all about the health of the soil and conservation is all about the health of our oceans. Together we can all help make a difference. We can buy local, buy seasonally, buy sustainably and, above all, buy British.
All of the recipes in both books are very special to me but a couple that stand out are Mrs B’s Lemon Drizzle and Blueberry Cake from Brothers Farm in Dorset and Spiced Salmon en Croute from JCS fish farm in Grimsby. Both are straightforward to make and my daughters absolutely love the cake! Spiced Salmon en Croute makes for a tasty Sunday lunch and is a real crowd-pleaser.