We think that you are in United States and that you would prefer to view Bookwitty in English.
We will display prices in United States Dollar (USD).
Have a cookie!
Bookwitty uses cookies to personalize content and make the site easier to use. We also share some information with third parties to gather statistics about visits.

Are you Witty?

Sign in or register to share your ideas

Sign In Register

The Art of the Natural Home: Testing Rebecca Sullivan's Recipes

SultanaBun By SultanaBun Published on May 16, 2017

Found this article relevant?

6
This article was updated on July 20, 2017

Sometimes, it’s the most unexpected of books that change your whole outlook on life.

In The Art of the Natural Home, Rebecca Sullivan sets out to help the reader achieve a healthy, natural lifestyle. The author offers natural alternatives to commercially produced, and often chemically-laden, products for every corner of your home, from cleaning products to cosmetics. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to be convinced. A lifetime of TV ads has conditioned me to believe in ‘scientifically proven’ magic dirt-be-gone sprays and youth-come-back creams. It would be a tall order indeed to make me believe that anything they could do, I could do better.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2f473e5ba0 ab23 4789 a19b f92712e7017a inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1
Rebecca Sullivan, eco-agronomist, activist, food writer and urban farmer.

Rebecca Sullivan’s journey to self-reliance began with a mission to learn, and then preserve, the skills of a disappearing generation. Her Great Grandma Lil won medals for her Victoria sponge cake and Rebecca was determined that Lil’s recipe would not be lost. That cake recipe led to further knowledge and more skills. 

As Rebecca points out, people of Lil’s generation cooked from scratch, not because it was fashionable but, because they had to. They ate local, seasonal food and abhorred waste. Processed foods and supermarkets may have made life easier but they also facilitated the loss of skills, what Sullivan calls Granny Skills. Convenience won the day and people no longer learned how to cook or make preserves, make butter or jam. What followed was not only a loss of recipes and technique but, more importantly, a loss of confidence. We have now reached a point when the majority of consumers wouldn’t consider themselves to be capable of making even the simplest of products. They wouldn’t even consider it.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2f335dbf7f 6133 4313 b243 63613937c019 inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

The Art of the Natural Home is a very pretty book, benefiting from gorgeous production and elegant photography by Nassima Rothacker. I particularly liked the subtle coding of sections by colouring the page edges. However, the real beauty of this book is that it empowers the willing reader to experiment, to try making products that we have been fooled into believing we have no option but to buy.

Rebecca Sullivan moved beyond homemade foods and learned how to make her own home-cleaning products, detergents, and even cosmetics. The ultimate goal of this book is to help you take a holistic approach to health and well being to achieve a natural lifestyle. Rebecca provides 

‘natural recipes and products for the entire home from the kitchen pantry to the cleaning cupboard, from your make-up bag to the medicine cabinet (and, happily, a few treats for the drinks trolley too).’

In this book a ‘natural product’ is defined as something you could eat with no repercussions. Ninety percent of the ingredients are edible. In addition, many of the ingredients are store cupboard staples or can be grown in your garden. Failing that, Sullivan lists online sources for everything you might require, from ingredients to suitable bottles and containers.

I loved the practical simplicity of this book. Most of the products are made by simply assembling the ingredients and stirring the pot. There is nothing in this book beyond your ability, I guarantee it, and you may be pleasantly surprised when you discover just how much you can make.

The Art of the Natural Home is divided into two parts: Home and Health and Beauty. 

The Home section offers a selection of natural recipes for your pantry, as well as chemical-free cleaning products, natural gardening guidelines and even some herbal cocktails and suggestions for your drinks trolley.

It won’t surprise you to hear that my first stop was the kitchen. Most of the recipes are for sauces and condiments, the jars you usually pick up from a supermarket shelf. There are myths galore out there that jam-making is a tricky, sticky business, that pickles might kill you and that lemon curd must surely involve some mystical alchemy. It’s not true and this book does an excellent job of demonstrating how easy these treats are to make at home.

As a card carrying relishaholic, I was obliged to test Rebecca’s Apple, Pear and Tomato Chutney. I may be adjusting my own recipe to include her delicious spice combination.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2f66b1c86b f94d 4627 8b3d ebb21b021f2d inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Gathering my courage, I searched for recipes that were completely new to me. I made my first buttermilk pickle, something I’d never heard of before. Pears have been fermenting for three days in buttermilk with cinnamon and bay leaves. I was expecting them to taste sour but the flavour is more alcoholic, almost like a sweet pear liqueur. Decidedly odd but I keep going back for more.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2fd456d98a 0a50 4dea 9be0 b9d974d2e8ce inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

The foodie hot wire has been buzzing over the last couple of years about fermented foods. Convinced as I am of the tremendous benefits to health, and even mood, I have remained reluctant to dive into the brine of fermenting. I thought it would involve buying equipment and probably a trip to a hippy dippy health food store. No such luck. Rebecca’s Sauerkraut recipe requires nothing more exciting than a head of cabbage and a Kilner jar.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2fab85ee54 0172 4f49 afc6 e3fec1dbdef9 inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

It’s alive! I have to tell you, I was nervous about those gas bubbles. I lay awake at night in expectation of a briny explosion. I lost my nerve on Day 4 and called a halt but it was already pretty good stuff. Not having eaten any genuine sauerkraut, I’m not qualified to comment on the authenticity of my creation. Let’s just say it’s very good with a slice of ham and I may be hooked on the adrenalin rush. Watch this space for further adventures in fermentation.

Rebecca seems to have put considerable thought into making these recipes achievable even for absolute beginners. Most of the recipes have minimal ingredients and don’t require specialist equipment. Her no-churn ice cream is as good as any I’ve tried. I recommend doubling the recipe.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2f2cadd47a b080 46c8 9c17 632877f5d55e inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Of all the food recipes, our favourite had only two ingredients. We, as a family, made butter. Everyone, from the over-excited kindergartner to the exam-stressed teenagers, demanded a turn at shaking our miniature churn. That half hour of fun alone made this book a winner.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2feffdbfe9 de2c 4b80 9b05 56b76d4324fd inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

An unexpected bonus: the butter was the best I’ve ever tasted.


The second half of The Art of the Natural Home is devoted to Health and Beauty. I came to this section with healthy scepticism. I’m not a great fan of putting eggs in my hair. Let’s just say I’ve been there, scrambled that.

Rebecca Sullivan does suggest an egg hair mask but, thankfully, there are many more recipes aside from that one.

Did you know, for instance, that you can buy Vitamin C powder and very easily make your own anti-aging face serum? How about a soothing rosewater toner or a coconut body scrub?

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2fcc9171e2 48fc 4a22 8850 4bd3993533cf inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

All are a doddle to make, literally child’s play.

‘This is the best fun ever!’ said my daughter as she pounded rose petals in a pestle and mortar.

I’ve been taking a twice daily shot of mood-enhancing amusement from swigging homemade mouthwash out of a handsome gin bottle. The kids tell me my Miss Hannigan routine is coming along nicely.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2fecfb0de3 4371 4b63 81b8 852ad9b15f2d inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

For hair, beyond eggy masks, there are recipes for shampoo, conditioner, detangling spray and salt spray for beachy hair. I’m well past the surfer girl look but I do believe in avoiding sulphates so I was willing to give coconut shampoo a try.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2f88f22e4f f206 4822 8ffe ef8fe556a9a2 inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

 It’s not a simple substitute for shop-bought shampoo; I needed the extra step of a vinegar rinse to feel my hair was really clean. My top criterion when choosing shampoo is that it mustn't irritate my sensitive Celtic skin and this one fits that bill perfectly.

Make-up recipes include a natural concealer, tinted moisturiser, mascara, rose lip balm and the most deliciously scented blusher I’ve ever had the pleasure of dusting on my cheeks.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2fee13e1c0 bf2e 4cd7 9331 15e5e60d90b7 inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

I’ve been using these products for a week or so now and, look, I’d love to tell you that they’ve taken years off me. Alas, not. All I can vouch for is that they feel, smell, and even taste fantastic. Every product I’ve tried has been a pleasure to use and, at the very worst, will do no harm. That can’t be a bad place to start.

While this is, without doubt, a very pretty book, men are not neglected. A section for gentlemen covers a masculine man scrub, beard oil and a weirdly delicious shaving foam.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2f7eda3d5e 0c4a 4a86 8eb9 e6bb2ff70769 inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

 I admit that the shaving foam made the sink a bit scummy but that was sorted by the Scum Scrub recipe in the cleaning section.

The final section of The Art of the Natural Home offers remedies for minor ailments. Recipes range from tinctures and tonics to herbal teas, salves and salt remedies. I’m happy to vouch for the sleepy-time bath salts. I hardly had time to button my pyjamas and take a swig from the aforementioned gin bottle before my eyelids dropped.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2fe27ddc85 0852 46c4 9b52 5356fe97c4db inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

My first batch of medicinal vinegar, which I am choosing to trust will ease all my anxieties while simultaneously shrinking me to fit a bikini, is still stewing.

Https%3a%2f%2fs3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads.bookwitty.com%2fd2735ff7 7d23 4c63 a83b ce02de9233fe inline original.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

 A girl can hope.


For me, The Art of the Natural Home represents a friendly and accessible introduction to a wide range of ‘granny skills’. At first glance, this book looks like something you’d give as a gift, a prettily packaged bit of fun. It is fun but it is also empowering. I was thrilled to watch my daughters experimenting with tailor-made shades of blusher rather than buying in to the notion that they must subscribe to the advice of some air-brushed starlet telling them they’re worth it.

You don’t have to make your own toothpaste, of course you don’t, but you could. Knowledge brings choice and having a choice is always the better option.

Rebecca Sullivan has succeeded in convincing me that I can drop a long list of harmful chemicals from my weekly shopping list and I can make more natural products at home than I ever imagined possible.

The Art of the Natural Home is a lovely book; it is clean and refreshing in every way.

Find your copy here.

Irish blogger and book reviewer. Official contributor to Bookwitty.com and author of Bookwitty's monthly 'Cooking the Books' feature. Erstwhile microbiologist with an MSc in Food Science, she ... Show More

Found this article relevant?

6