circle conversations │ gill meller

Gill Meller is a chef, food writer, author, food stylist, and cookery teacher. He lives and works near the small fishing town of Lyme Regis, in Dorset.
Gill has been part of the River Cottage team for 11 years, working closely with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall across the breadth of the business. Gill teaches at Park Farm, the home of River Cottage HQ, a smallholding and cookery school producing many of its own ingredients in a simple and respectful way, following an organic model.

Gill wearing Mountain sweater.
Photographed by Cathy Kasterine

Will you please share with us your thoughts on the connection between the Earth and food?

Food is the name we give little bits of the earth that we can eat, so we survive as a species. We consume the earth in order to live. We are completely reliant on the earth, but in stark contrast, the earth has no reliance on people. We only take.

You said: “Making small changes to the way we cook and eat can both lessen the impact we have on the environment and dramatically improve our health and wellbeing: good for us and for future generations to come.” Will you please share with us a few simple examples of how we can make these small changes?

There are so many people living on this planet today that some food has to be produced in ways that inevitably damage the environment, but some things we like to eat have less of an impact. With this in mind, one of the best things we can do is eat as much locally grown, seasonal fruit and veg as possible, particularly if it’s been grown organically. Supporting farmers and growers who produce food in this way is so important. Organic fruit and vegetables are grown in a more regulated way than their conventional alternatives: organic certification involves rigorous restrictions on some of the most dangerous chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers.

What are your thoughts on biodynamic farming and foraging?

Farmers and growers who are working in harmony with nature to restore biodiversity and protect our ecosystems whether biodynamic or not should be supported. They are producing ingredients that are going to be infinitely better than their intensively produced alternatives.

Foraging for some of your own food from the wild can be fun and incredibly rewarding and I'd encourage people to pick up a wild food guide and have a go. There are some foods that are easy to identify and plentiful. Take nettles as an example. We should all be cooking and eating them a lot more. They are delicious, abundant and absolutely free. If this isn’t enough, nettles are also exceptionally good for you.

They make a great alternative to our more familiar cultivated greens, such as spinach or kale, and can be cooked in very similar ways. Foraging isn’t going to help solve some of the bigger questions like “how do we feed an exploding population when there’s no land left to grow food?’ but it does help us as individuals see the natural world through new eyes.

What does sustainability mean to you?

In the broadest sense, it's a way of living that’s pro life.

What book are you reading right now?

I'm reading the BBKA Guide to Beekeeping. Soon I'll have two hives in the garden, I'm a big fan of honey and bees are a good thing.

I have a few simple questions. You can reply with just a word or a couple of words.

If I say Blue, what comes to your mind?