With its warm welcome, delicious wafts of homecooked food and eclectic decor, Michael Mayhew and Laura Elliot’s ‘The Food Library’ has all the hallmarks of a good neighbourhood bistro – the only difference is, it’s based in their own living room.
From the comfort of their Northampton terraced house you can enjoy fresh-from-the-kitchen food made from fresh-from-the-garden produce, surrounded by a 350-strong collection of their favourite books, foraged from flea markets and charity shops over the last 30 years.
The idea? Part fight-back against local restaurant and library closures and part unstoppable passion for homegrown food and books, the couple have taken the decision to allow the public access to their vast personal collection of food, cookery and grow-your-own books at their book bistro to “help them reconnect with food”.
“Our current food system is not sustainable and changing this starts in our own homes,” says chef Michael, who magically manages to cook up generous portions of delicious morsels from a cramped terraced kitchen, while Laura acts as librarian. Both of them dig in to grow the fruit and veg at their allotment.
“Having books enables us to learn about what to do with food and, importantly, to have the confidence to try out new ideas,” adds Laura. “These days, food is very much about ‘being fed’ but we want people to take a closer look at where their produce comes from, try out a recipe from one of the books, and start a conversation about food.”
While the books are for reference only, visitors can check out the ever-growing book index and bag their own library card, as well as takeaway a tasty range of homemade chutney, vinegar and liqueurs, such as rhubarb gin.
With a schedule of community events already in the pipeline, including making use of their new garden-based pizza oven, they hope The Food Library will eventually allow people with limited means to learn some new skills.
For former artist Michael, it’s a culmination of many dreams. “We’ve always grown, cooked and loved food but now it’s come together under one roof. My kitchen has become my art studio, except instead of paint I’m being creative with food.”
The Food Library is open every other Saturday and membership costs £25 a year. Members will also get access to future events, including the Food Lovers Night on February 15, 2020, where a five-course meal will be served. Find out more or email to book your time slot.