Snapseed to sowing seeds: dig into the digital life of the chef, author and food writer

Gill Meller is an award-winning food writer behind a slew of best-selling cookery books. He is also a columnist for Delicious Magazine and a veteran member of the River Cottage crew which, with Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall at the helm, runs canteens in Winchester, Bristol and Axminster, as well as operations at Park Farm. The latter is River Cottage’s home, which doubles as a cookery school, from where Gill imparts his expertise to the epicurious.

The ethos is simple: to grow, source and cook food, not only ethically and sustainably, but in a way that is also life-enriching. Based in the fishing town of Lyme Regis, Dorset, Gill makes little distinction between his own food philosophy and that of the River Cottage; having grown up and evolved around one another, they are more-or-less intertwined and indistinguishable. Simplicity and seasonality are at the core of both, as well as locality; Gill’s cooking always echoes his surroundings. As such, he says, ‘I take inspiration from the landscape, my locality, and the amazing farmers, growers, and fisherman that produce the ingredients I use.’


Viewers of Channel 4’s The River Cottage series will recognise him from the show, while avid cookbook collectors will know him as the author of a number of River Cottage handbooks – Pigs and Pork (2015) and Outdoor Cooking (2019) – as well as a growing collection of his own volumes, which include the critically acclaimed Gather (2016), Time ( 2018) and, most recently, Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower (2020).

Here he shares with us the indispensable book that guides him through each and every season; why the Organic Gardening Catalogue has proved invaluable through lockdown; and how he yearns for us all to stop expecting immediacy and just slow down.

My favourite app...


I use Snapseed regularly. It’s a picture editing app. If you like photography you’ll find it useful I’m sure, particularly when you get to know how it works. It can be very handy for tweaking your favourite images.

My favourite blog...


I must admit I’m not a blog reader. If I get time, I try to read fiction or flick through the latest recipe books building up on my kitchen shelves.



My favourite podcast...


I love Gilly Smith’s podcast Cooking The Books. I’ll often listen to the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme podcast, too.

My most recent buy online...


I bought a lame (a very sharp blade) for slashing my sourdough bread before it goes in the oven.

Last book you downloaded or read...


I’ve been reading my 2021 Almanac, written by Lia Leenderttz. It’s a month-by-month inspiration for me. It’s where I find out the tide times, what’s in season in the hedgerows, what to plant in the garden and the phases of the moon. There’s folklore, recipes and a whole lot more. Not only is it packed full of interesting info, it’s calming to look at too.

Favourite tweeter...


Recently, I guess it had to be Trump, because he was and still is, such a lunatic. You just couldn’t believe what was happening. You couldn’t!


Favourite Instagrammer...


Too many to mention.

Favourite tech gadget...


Well it would probably have to be my iPhone 11. It’s such a useful gadget. I will never understand how it works, but it’s bloody amazing.

The most useful gadget/item on your desk...


A really amazing torch I found in a car park. It’s an LED bike torch but it’s incredibly bright, frighteningly so. You can charge it with a USB and it has a good battery life. You can even charge your phone with it if you get caught out. The weird thing is, it has no makers mark or branding whatsoever.

Most useful digital resource during lockdown...


The Organic Gardening Catalogue has been very useful over lockdown because I’ve spent some of my new-found time building a vegetable garden. I am always on their site looking at seed varieties and getting excited about what I might be able to grow in my new raised beds.

Most inspirational digital resource during lockdown...


Charles Dowding – @charles_dowding – is a very helpful resource. He shares brilliant ‘how-to’ videos and posts on vegetable gardening. If you’re a beginner, he is just the man, and, he has a very calm and easy-to-listen-to way about him.


First thing/app you look at on your mobile when you wake up/in the morning...


I scroll through the Guardian app to check how bad things are out there. You can get a pretty good picture of what’s going on in just a few minutes. I’m looking forward to a really positive, happy headline one day, but they never seem to happen. Bring on some good news!

Last thing you binge-watched...


I really enjoyed watching the new Chef’s Table: Barbecue series on Netflix. Very nicely done.

Favourite brands have you discovered online...


I’ve started working with Rhino Greenhouses – @rhinogreenhouses – after connecting with them online. They are British-made greenhouses with a simple look. They’re in the business of growing, which I like. If we can all do more of that at home, it can only be good.

Social media allowed me to meet...


So many inspirational cooks and writers. Sometimes it would feel like I’d already met them – of course, I hadn’t. That’s pretty powerful.


The best digital advice I've been given...


Strike a balance.

My screensaver is...


A picture of the front of the house my parents used to live in. It was taken by Andrew Montgomery and features in my cookbook, Time. I remember when we took the shot, it was -3C and very dark. The exposure time seemed like ages.

My standout online memory...


Seeing my latest cookbook had completely sold out just about everywhere right before Christmas. Lots of people said ‘that’s great news’, but actually it was frustrating, as the reprint didn’t land until after the 25th.

My pet online hate is...


I’m not sure I have a pet hate, other than this idea that everything should be immediate. The expectant immediacy of communication, on whatever platform, makes me want to slow down all the more.


Do you have any online rules or resolutions?


Sometimes I dream about a world without social media. Could I ever be that person again? I think I’d be happier, but I’d find it hard to work in the way I do. Lots of what I do is linked to the digital world.

The Internet. On balance, a force for good or ill?


Both.

By Nancy Alsop
January 2021

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