Friday, December 20, 2013

66 Square Feet: Book Review and Giveaway


What began as long emails home to her mother far away in South Africa, grew into blog which Marie Viljoen named 66 Square Feet, after carefully measuring the length and width of her tiny terrace garden in Brooklyn, New York. In turn the blog, which opened this tiny green space to the wide world of the internet, blossomed into the book 66 Square Feet: A Delicious Life.

A delicious life! Three little words that suggest so much: good food for sure, but much more than that: an attitude, a lifestyle, a way of savouring life's simple pleasures.

Could there be anything more delicious than a meal of fresh, seasonal ingredients served outdoors, as often as weather permits, on pretty floral plates along with a good bottle of wine and bouquet of just-picked-flowers? 

Photograph from the book 66 Square Feet- A Delicious Life by Marie Viljoen © Marie Viljoen 2013

Photograph from the book 66 Square Feet- A Delicious Life by Marie Viljoen © Marie Viljoen 2013

Although I am sure it is not, Marie Viljoen's writing feels effortless; as casual and comfortable as the clothes you slip into after a long day at work.

Starting in January, each chapter in the book is devoted to a particular month in the year and what's growing on Marie's terrace and rooftop gardens. The chapters link the meals Marie prepares with food she's either grown herself that month, found at local farmer's markets or made from ingredients foraged in local parks and green spaces.

The book touches only briefly on the subject of foraging, but I was curious to know more. 

In an email, Marie explained to me that "...Tipsy Titoti, my mother's housekeeper, who was like a second mother to me, would gather edible weeds in the garden to make morogo- a green weed stew, as comfort food for herself...So I became aware that 'weeds' are plants with another use...food."

"In New York it was a friend visiting from South Africa who brought me a bowlful of red berries she gathered under the Brooklyn Bridge and said, What are these?- who introduced me to serviceberries, Amelanchier sp. Suddenly I started seeing the city with new eyes. For instance, I can't wait for March-beacuse to me March means Japanese knotweed shoots can be found growing in a huge park in the Bronx."

I must say that I had to chuckle a little when I read Marie's description of Japanese knotweed shoots as having "a lemony creaminess reminiscent of sorrel". For me, knotweed has been a terrible and invasive weed I have struggled endlessly to eliminate from the back of my garden. Japanese knotweed has deep tap roots and a root ball the size of a car battery. I have even seen it take over an entire property.

Who knew that you could eat the damned stuff? Think of it. It is the gardener's ultimate revenge: eating fresh shoots of a weed that has been making you crazy for years!

Photograph from the book 66 Square Feet- A Delicious Life by Marie Viljoen © Marie Viljoen 2013

In the countryside, I think there is a natural tendency to take nature a little bit for granted. It's all around you after all. 

But in a big city like New York, moments of natural beauty like the red rose clamouring up the side this grey brick store front are rarer and perhaps are all the more precious for it.

Space to garden is at the premium, forcing the gardener to be even more creative and resourceful. It is amazing to realize how much you can squeeze onto a small terrace! 

Photograph from the book 66 Square Feet- A Delicious Life by Marie Viljoen © Marie Viljoen 2013

The book contains 92 recipes which are scattered throughout the months in a year. 

Some are as easy as a boiled egg served with chives snipped from the spring garden. But even in these everyday recipes, there is always a simple gem of an idea such as adding buttermilk to mashed potatoes. 

Photograph from the book 66 Square Feet- A Delicious Life by Marie Viljoen © Marie Viljoen 2013

Photograph from the book 66 Square Feet- A Delicious Life by Marie Viljoen © Marie Viljoen 2013

It was such a pleasure read Marie's recipe notes. I can just imagine the "perfume of local strawberries" mixed with a rich, shortcrust pastry "heavy on butter, very light in texture, crisp and delicate" that reclines "on a pillow of whipped cream or Greek yogurt."

I end by asking you: Could there be any happier ambition than endeavouring to lead a delicious life? 



If you would like to be included a draw for the copy of  66 Square Feet: A Delicious Life, please leave a comment below. I am going to leave the contest open throughout the holidays to give as many people as possible a chance to enter. The draw's closing date will be January 5th, 2014 . Overseas bloggers are welcome to enter. The draw and winning announcement will be made early in the new year. Good luck everyone!

To purchase a copy of 66 Square Feet: A Delicious Life please see the links below.

To read reviews of other gardening books, be sure to click this link to Holley's blog: Roses and other Gardening Joys.

More Information and Links:



Author Marie Viljoen (Profile photograph by Vincent Mounier) was born in was born in the small city of Bloemfontein and spent her early years in Cape Town, South Africa. Presently Marie resides in Harlem with her French husband and a Dominican cat.

Vist her blog: 66 Square Feet

Find the book 66 Square Feet: A Delicious Life on Amazon or at your local independent bookstore. In Canada, the book can be purchased online at Chapter.indigo

30 comments:

  1. It sounds like a wonderful book, I´d love to join in! :-)

    http://tinajoathome.com/

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  2. I have been following 66 square feet for some time now and find Marie such an inspiration in all things food and gardening - I cried with her when she had to leave her terrace behind and am looking forward to seeing how she deals with her much larger Harlem one.

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  3. That is a great review! I have been following her blog for a couple of months now and really enjoy her style of writing. She appears to be a very natural and creative cook. I'm enjoying reading about her time with her family in South Africa now.

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  4. I have hopped in and out of the 66 blog for a while now...finding a sacred heart of gardening, food and pleasure in that small square footage. So pleased, Marie has had her book published and it is now available. Love your post.

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  5. A delicious life - that line drew me in, too! And her foraging forays sound like fun. Living in the country, I can not imagine only having 66 square feet - but I think she has done more with her small amount of garden than I have with my large one! Thanks for a fabulous review! This one is going on my wish list! (Please don't include me in the drawing.)

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  6. Enter me please! I'd love to win.

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  7. She has done an amazing job with her balcony space!

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  8. Great review of this book, Jennifer! I have read her blog and it's interesting. I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

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  9. Ha, too funny about the knotweed! That looks like one deliciously great book! From the pictures, what she's done on her little terrace looks pretty impressive.

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  10. This sounds like a wonderful book to read and to have in a gardening book collection. I would love to be entered into the draw to have my own copy. I'll be checking the library shelves and bookstores for this book. Thanks for sharing your review of it ... it makes me want to own a copy.

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  11. Well what an interesting book! Just shows that even a small space can provide so much food. Please enter me too!xxx

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  12. Please do count me in, Jennifer!
    This sounds like a wonderful book.
    When you talk about her beginning in January, I found myself thinking, "What can you grow in NY (I live in NY) in January???"

    Thank you for sharing this here.

    I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a bright, beautiful New Year.

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  13. The writing is very seductive. I think it would be a pleasure to read as a treat for the senses. Dare I try the knotweed? Eating the enemy sounds a little dangerous. Count me in on the give away please. Have a wonderful Christmas. Sue

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  14. It's my dream to have a kitchen garden. I love all the DIY and renovations that I've been doing to fix up my house, but the day that I finish all the big jobs and can turn my focus into creating my kitchen garden will be the happiest day I've spent in this house!

    Merry Christmas Jennifer! xox

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  15. A great review on how someone can make the most of so little space. I believe there are a number of weeds that can be eaten cooked but they've not been on my list of things to do.

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  16. Hi Jennifer
    Wow! This woman is a creative and imaginative gardener! She has certainly made the most of the space allotted to her. I would love to read more, so please enter me in your giveaway. Merry Christmas!

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  17. Thanks for this lovely review, it sounds like a great book, please count me in. Although I have 10 times as big garden than her terrace, my garden is tiny compared to most people and ‘balcony growing’ has to be applied in many ways, I am sure I can get many great ideas from the book, I am always on the lookout for new and imaginative solutions.

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  18. I have been going through your blog and I have fallen in love. I too have a small garden area and although my location is much different than yours. We live in an area with very dry hot summers and very little humidity. I garden mostly by trial and error and because our summers and springs vary so much from year to year, I really don't know what I'm doing. I keep trying and I refuse to give-up. I will enjoy your blog and dream of having as lovely a garden as yours.
    Your newest follower and blogging sister,
    Connie :)

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  19. Jennifer this book is stunning in its beauty and delicious recipes...I would love to win this book!!

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  20. I have been a fan of 66 Square Feet for a long time, but do not own the book. I love her recipes too. Have a great holiday Jen.

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  21. It sure looks like a great book. Have a joyful Christmas, Jennifer! :)

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  22. You've written a great review of this book Jennifer! I'd love to be entered in your draw. I must have a look over at 66 Square Feet now :) Merry Christmas, Wendy xox

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  23. This sounds so interesting! I began my married life with a garden outside our first floor apartment in Manahattan, but truly never considered growing anything edible there!

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  24. I would like to be entered in the drawing, sounds like a fascinating book. Happy New Year.

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  25. That is awesome that Japanese Knotweed is edible! If everyone knew this maybe we could finally rid ourselves of the darned stuff.

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  26. I'll have to take a look at her blog. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  27. I just happened upon your blog, and I am in love! Spent most of New Years Day on the sofa reading your past posts! I live in Georgia, USA (about 100 miles northeast of Atlanta), but I see a lot of the same flowers in your garden that I have in mine. I was reading your post about people asking why you show gardens other than your own; I love it because it is unlikely that I will ever get to Canada to see a private garden that is on your husband's postal route. But through the wonder of the internet, I feel as if I have been to your garden and the ones that you show. Please enter me in your contest to win the book.

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  28. Whew, I am out of breath and ran here all the way from last year. Thanks for putting my name in the hat.

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