Bestselling author Max Brooks lovingly maintains his late mother's garden

Bestselling author Max Brooks lovingly maintains his late mother’s garden

Every day, the best-selling writer Max Brooks drives from his home in Venice to work in the attic of his father Mel’s place in Santa Monica.  It’s a way to check in on his famous dad–and the garden lovingly planted by his late mother, the actress Anne Bancroft.

Max Brooks explains how he makes sugar from the cane in his late mother’s garden

Max Brooks explains how he makes sugar from the cane in his late mother’s garden

It seems Ms. Bancroft, in addition to being a beautiful movie star, loved getting her hands in the dirt.  Wherever she lived over the course of her life, she grew whatever she could with whatever available space she had.  At the home where Max spent his adolescence in Santa Monica, she built a spectacular terraced garden, lit so she could tend it night.

Only after her death in 2005 did her husband and son immerse themselves in it.   And add to it.  This isn’t just a tomato plant and a lemon tree: it’s a sophisticated garden, with sugar cane, coffee beans, several varieties of persimmon, blueberries.  Max has even experimented with growing wheat, and can wax poetic about his work with corn.

9781611800142_1_1You can learn more in an essay Max contributed to a new book called The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family and How We Learned to Eat.

“I didn’t think anyone would be interested in this cul de sac, so to speak,” he told me.  “I thought everyone expected zombie science fiction, and here I am writing about gardening.  But it’s something I love and it takes a lot of my time.”

The blueberries remind Max of his summers as a kid in Fire Island

The blueberries remind Max of his summers as a kid in Fire Island

Max doesn’t see himself giving up writing in favor of becoming an organic farmer, as much as he loves his work in the garden.  But he does now understand how his mother took joy in killing worms.  Then, he thought it was sadistic and wrong. “Now, I understand that sense of protection, when I see squirrels in Venice coming after my Japanese plum tree, if we lived in the country, you’d go in the pot as well,” he said.

His father gets it too.  Now, the two bond over rat patrol at the compost bins on the side of the house.  Mel carries the stick, and Max carries the compost.   Being from New York makes scaring away the vermin a bit easier.





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  • james228

    what could a mother ask for her children to do but to continue the legacy she has started. very sweet and great initiative in doing so.

  • Sarah Spitz

    A bit of KCRW history: Anne Bancroft was a big fan of Lili Singer's "The Garden Show" on KCRW. The show had a long life on the air but ultimately was taken off. When Ms. Bancroft came in to record a program (I think it was Castaway's Choice) at the station a zillion years ago, I greeted her in the studio and the first thing she said was "When will you bring back The Garden Show." She was indeed devoted.

  • Jody

    I love this……

  • DavidH

    A wonderful actress and loving mother who seems to have excelled at both. Good luck with the squirrels, Max!

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    Very lovely and excellent effort in doing so. Surely any mother would be so happy with this effort.

  • henry rosenfeld

    Lovely to hear this Lisa! Way to go Max! Hey Meeechelle and Hellooo Henry!

  • Yvette

    I loved his mother as an actress, and so it's nice to see how she touched those in her life.
    What a beautiful tribute.

  • Pingback: Edible Garden Profile: Max Brooks’ Santa Monica Memories | Good Food

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