Thirty years ago I received a letter from Puglia in southern Italy. It was typed in red ink and it came from Patience Gray, whom at that point I had not met. In it she thanked me for reviewing her cookery book Honey from a Weed – for testing the recipes and for not calling her pretentious for including a long bibliography at the end. The letter pleased me because I knew the place from which it had come, so removed from London, where I was living. One of Gray’s achievements back then was to interest us in a place where slow food, seasonal eating and foraging were not lifestyle choices, but a necessary part of life. Before the likes of Peter Mayle started describing years in Provence, Andalusia and Tuscany, long before Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray (no relation) installed their wood-fired oven and started serving the best of Italian food at The River Café, here was a glimpse of a very good and very different life lived on the edge of Europe.