Another Gath­er­ing in May: this time Ilfracombe!

-- May 10th, 2015 --

It’s that time of year again…

The Gath­er­ing of Nuts in May, that annual cel­e­bra­tion of glut­tony – or gas­tron­omy, as my Nuts and I choose to think of it – shared by a half dozen or so aspir­ing food writ­ers, reunited every May after our 2008 adven­ture with the Arvon Foun­da­tion, at Totleigh Bar­ton, a pre-Domesday white­washed house in the wilds of Devon.


Who would ever have pre­dicted that we six, sur­vivors of the orig­i­nal 15 writ­ers who gath­ered in the wilds of Devon seven years ago, for five days of instruc­tion by our tutors (some of it painfully, even bru­tally hon­est!).  Oh, the hours we spent hon­ing our craft.


What happy mem­o­ries we all have of our shared exper­i­ments in learn­ing, writ­ing, read­ing, read­ing aloud what we’d writ­ten, in an ancient Eng­lish barn.


Fun­nily enough, the least of our adven­ture back then was in the eat­ing!  Arvon arranges for its stu­dents to cook together every evening, in teams, but lit­tle did we know that for a week­end every May ever since, those diehards among us would even­tu­ally think of vir­tu­ally noth­ing BUT cook­ing, for the sev­eral days we spend together.  Our mem­o­ries of our first meet­ing are bright, if fuzzy.


At our reunions, we are unabashedly obsessed with food.  There’s the shop­ping.  And the eat­ing. And the talk­ing about shop­ping and cook­ing and eat­ing. We none of us fin­ish a meal with­out instantly talk­ing about where the next one is com­ing from, what it will be, who will cook it. It’s a recipe for intense bore­dom for most peo­ple I know – includ­ing my long-suffering fam­ily! – but for we six, it’s heaven. Kris­ten, Rosie, Sam, Susan, Pauline and Katie: the GNIM.

pauline katie rosie

And for the last sev­eral years, we’ve been joined by one of our orig­i­nal tutors, the divine Orlando, such a staunch sup­porter of all our work from Day One, gen­er­ous writer of one of the “blurbs” on my cook­book flap, cook extra­or­di­naire and writer to match.  Even with a flower behind his ear.

flower ear

This year, Orlando offered to pick me up at the train sta­tion clos­est to our des­ti­na­tion – a truly remark­able house found by our Susan, in Ilfra­combe, coastal Devon. This sort of favor isn’t really prop­erly appre­ci­ated until I tell you what bur­dens I labored under. Because the Fri­day night plan, on our pre­cious week­ends, is for me to bring the sup­per and Rosie to bring the pud­ding, I had with me a large crust­less tart con­tain­ing a wealth of white crab…