|A WAY OF LIVING|
This book is a creative expression of Pia and Simon Pearce’s way of life and the products of their work: their glass and pottery, home, table, and cooking. Pia visited my studio in Vermont on a cold, snowy day in February and shared her idea for a book with me. She wished to produce a cookbook that offered recipes for the many favorite dishes served at the Simon Pearce restaurants. We let the concept gestate until one summer day, when Pia and Simon invited my wife, our children, and me to lunch at their house.
It was one of those perfect, warm, sunny days that we all yearn for when we think of summer. The Pearces’ house, gardens, and meadows were equal in beauty to the delicious lunch we shared. Under the shade, and in the open air of their side porch, we sat at a long wooden table set with Simon Pearce glass and pottery. Pia and Simon had prepared smoked salmon, pasta salad, a fresh garden salad, brown bread, and scones. We passed bowls and platters of food around the table and served ourselves. The whole event was simple; the atmosphere, calm and comfortable. We talked about what it was like for them to have lived in Ireland and now in Vermont.
Simon placed a large glass bowl of whole fresh peas in the middle of the table. They had not been shelled, nor had they been cooked. He invited us to take a handful; we did, and placed them nonchalantly not on a plate but directly on the table as he had done. We watched him shell the peas, take several in the palm of his hand, and eat them, one after another. We did the same. Peas had never tasted so good. How could eating raw peas be so unusual and enriching, simplicity so captivating? For dessert, Pia served vanilla ice cream topped with fresh-picked, thinly sliced strawberries and fresh mint leaves in Simon Pearce glass bowls.
After lunch, we walked through the Pearces’ gardens and talked more. We talked about what it means to share a meal around a table, how each of us had been raised, the importance of including beautiful things in one’s life, and why we make the things we make. We talked about the magnificent 200-year-old oak tree around which the Pearces’ house and grounds were designed, and we talked about glass. By the end of our visit, it had become clear to us that to best present their recipes, it would be compelling to provide a fuller story of the motivating ideas and reasons that surround them. The concept for a cookbook expanded to offer a larger perspective on the inspiring way of life, work, and interests that Pia and Simon share.
I wanted to understand what motivated them to create the multidimensional family business known as Simon Pearce. Pia and Simon’s early childhood experiences and influences offered clues. I visited Pia’s childhood home in rural New Jersey and met her mother, Peggy McDonnell Walsh. Peggy cooked us delicious meals, and we shared them at a beautifully set table in her house, which was full of the scents of freshly picked flowers from her extraordinary gardens. I learned that Simon’s parents were forward thinking and often broke tradition—for a better, simpler life, they left the sophistication of working and living in London to farm and to raise their three children near the seacoast in rural Ireland. And I also learned that as a boy, Simon didn’t like the conformity of school very much; the restrictions of a traditional classroom environment didn’t inspire him. So he left school when he was sixteen and went on to use his curiosity and common sense to teach himself the skills to eventually build with Pia, in a small town in Vermont, one of the highest-quality glassmaking companies in the world. Making glass is central to Simon Pearce, but Pia and Simon’s perceptive interest in creating a fulfilling way of living, and the importance of their home and table to them and their families, show us the important connections between their interests and the products they have inspired.
Writing this book was entirely collaborative. Since meeting on that warm summer day at their home, Simon, Pia, and I have shared many great discussions, lunches, dinners, walks, and experiences, all of which have resulted in the words and pictures we have composed and arranged on these pages. The texts are the result of our three voices, which quite easily coalesced into one expression. The photography evolved as I became increasingly inspired by the compelling depth, light, and clarity inherent in Simon Pearce glass and by my goal of capturing those qualities in a variety of settings. When we began this project, we deliberately left its process uncertain, each of us knowing and appreciating the benefits of flexibility and discovery. I have learned that determining the right process is critical and that the value that comes from trusting in the journey is immeasurable. I thank Pia and Simon for their openness and generosity in welcoming me into their lives, home, and work and for providing the readers of this book with insight into their inspiring way of living.
Our book is composed of segments that are linked to express a larger story. In “Glass,” Simon relates his quest to learn how to make the kind of glass he was interested in producing, where he began his work, and where and how Simon Pearce continues its work today. In “Our Home, Table, and Cooking,” Pia depicts the important childhood influences that today inspire Simon and her to make, live with, and use well-made, beautifully designed utilitarian objects and offers insights into the Pearce family’s personal, country-inspired lifestyle. For “Recipes from the Simon Pearce Restaurants,” Pia has selected twenty-seven favorite recipes from the hundreds of recipes the restaurants are known for and has adapted them for the home cook.
Long before I met Pia and Simon Pearce and embarked on creating this book with them, I had already held their glass in high esteem. Eighteen years ago, my wife, Ann, and I had been given Simon Pearce glass as wedding presents, and each year we add to our collection. In our home, we use Simon Pearce glass, serving bowls, dinnerware, and vases every day of the week. Learning about Pia and Simon’s glass and the many historical, practical, and personal connections to it has made my appreciation of their glass and their way of living much richer. We hope this book enhances your appreciation of it as well.
—Glenn Suokko, Woodstock, Vermont, 2009