Feeding Orchids to the Slugs is a beautifully written book by Florencia Clifford, and we don’t say that lightly. Part memoir, part cookbook, the book has the subtitle Tales from a Zen Kitchen, and it is one of the most honest and moving accounts of an individual’s personal journey that we have had the pleasure of reading. If you don’t intend to go beyond this first paragraph then let’s just say that this is a book that we would strongly recommend to anyone. It would also make a perfect gift, being a carefully crafted hardback with superb illustrations by Michaela Meadow.
Florencia Clifford was born in Argentina, but had an affinity for all things British from a very early age, and eventually married Simon, an Englishman. She moved to the UK in her twenties, and has been here ever since. For her 35th birthday, Simon (a practising Buddhist) arranged for Florencia (who was fairly averse to religion in general) to go on a retreat at the Maenllwyd Retreat Centre in Wales. Although Florencia had mixed feelings about the retreat, she was too shy to cancel it, so she went along with an almost begrudging attitude.
Everyone on the retreat at Maenllwyd was expected to help with chores, and Florencia was pleased to be assigned to work in the Zen kitchen. In Feeding Orchids to the Slugs, the author explains how that initial encounter with Zen cooking changed her life forever; continuing beyond the first retreat to become a long-term practice that helped her to heal old wounds and learn to love herself and others. Along the way she shares plenty of her vegetarian recipes so that readers can try Zen cooking for themselves, and if you aren’t particularly interested in cooking when you start this book you certainly will be by the time you finish it.
The author’s personal journey is fascinating, moving and inspirational, but what really makes this book a must-have is the quality of her writing. Florencia uses language with admirable precision to deliver a sensory-rich description of each moment, and that approach makes you feel as though you’re right there with the author, experiencing the same things, learning the same lessons and – thanks to the recipes – enjoying the same flavours and textures. In short, Feeding Orchids to the Slugs is a real work of art that easily earns our strongest possible recommendation.