Patience Jean Gray (31 October 1917 – 10 March 2005) was a British cookery and travel writer of the mid-20th century. Her most popular books were Plats Du Jour (1957), written with Primrose Boyd about French cooking, and Honey From A Weed (1986), an account of the Mediterranean way of life.
Life and writings
Born Patience Jean Stanham at Shackleford, near Godalming, Surrey, she was the second of the three daughters of Olive and Hermann Stanham, then an artillery officer. She spent her childhood in Surrey and on the Sussex coast. As a teenager she lived with her uncle and aunt in London, attending Queen's college in Harley Street, a prelude to the London School of Economics and a degree under the tutelage of the later Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell. Patience discovered late in life that her father, a surgeon, then a pig farmer, and finally a photographer, was the son of a Polish rabbi called Warschavski, who had arrived in England in 1861 and become a Unitarian minister.
In the early 1940s she had two children (Nicolas and Miranda), but separated from their father, whose name she had taken by deed-poll. In the mid-1950s she collaborated with a friend Primrose Boyd to write Plats Du Jour, which was reprinted by Persephone Books in 2006. Its success led her to work on the women's page of the Observer newspaper.
In the early 1960s she met and fell in love with the Belgian artist and sculptor Norman Mommens. They embarked on a journey around the Mediterranean to Provence, Carrara, Catalonia, the Greek island of Naxos, and finally southern Italy, where they settled in 1970 in Puglia, in a farmhouse named Spigolizzi. She writes about this journey in Honey From A Weed, a book about rural life, folklore and cookery, full of recipes featuring peasant food. She refused to have such modern conveniences as the refrigerator, telephone or electric light at Spigolizzi. Ring Doves And Snakes (1989) was about their time on Naxos. In 1994 she eventually married Mommens, who died in 2000.
She wrote two other books: The Centaur's Kitchen (1964, but published posthumously in 2005), a set of recipes for the Chinese cooks of the Blue Funnel Shipping Line aboard the newly launched cargo liner, the Centaur, plying from western Australia to Singapore; and Work Adventures Childhood Dreams (published 1999), a collection of autobiographical essays.
- Plats Du Jour, 1957 ISBN 1-903155-60-6, Reprinted by Persephone Books 2006
- Honey From A Weed, 1986 ISBN 1-903018-20-X
- Work Adventures Childhood Dreams, 1999 ISBN 88-87809-01-1
- Ring Doves and Snakes, 1989 ISBN 0-333-48612-9
- The Centaur's Kitchen: A Book of French, Italian, Greek & Catalan Dishes for Ships' Cooks on the Blue Funnel Line, 2006 ISBN 978-1903018-73-6