EXCLUSIVE: Drew Barrymore on her journey to becoming a Rebel Homemaker. She takes YOU inside her kitchen – and her life 

Graydon Herriott

I never thought that I would ever write a cookbook. I think because way back in the 1990s, when I was at an impressionable age, all these lifestyle “gurus” seemed so perfect to me: “Follow me; do as I do.” I know well that isn’t me— I am messy and will be a student until the day I die.

As a young girl who grew up around the world, working from job to job, location to location, I knew that I was lucky, because it made me very aware of the many different types of lives lived everywhere. It also gave me an extremely eclectic appetite for food and design. But finally, somewhere in my mid-twenties, I became a true homemaker, realising that travelling all the time was so tiring and expensive, and that I really did have no anchor in the world.

Then I found the place where I truly thought my roots would never be cut off. A house in Los Angeles; a house that I’d spend the next twenty years making a home, the anchor I had always wanted, with all the things I had collected throughout my life. My daughters [Olive and Frankie] were born, and I brought them through the threshold of that home thinking we would be there forever. I idealized it: my kids would have a different experience than I had, they would be able to come back to their childhood home when they were older, and sleep in the rooms they were raised in.

But then guess what happened? Life surprises you, and through marriage as well as divorce, I found myself somehow on the island of Manhattan. I wished I could go back to California, but I knew that would separate my daughters from the other half of their family, and I would do no such thing. I would remain in Manhattan so everybody could stay together.

I struggled for the next several years to try to figure out a way to make Manhattan a place I felt comfortable. I would pretend that we just went to school in New York and that we really lived in California, but as the years went by, having one foot in two places with three thousand miles between them, I realized I could not pull off this double life anymore and I would have to fully commit to being an East Coast girl. My kids were settled in school, and we were living near their grandparents and their dad and their cousins. But I was living in a rental, and I knew that I had to make one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made in my life: I sold the California house.

Where was I going to go next? And how would I find a way to stay close to nature?

Well, I went looking, and I bought a house outside the city. Then six months later, the pandemic hit. And, to my surprise, my daughters and I lived in it for the next eight months, without leaving.

During the pandemic, I wanted to help my girls focus on something that represented life, so I thought, what can I do right now? So, I bought some chickens. My daughters and I went to a hatchery to get six tiny chicks. We brought them home and put them under a heat lamp so they could grow big and strong.

Graydon Herriott

I also decided I would plant my very first vegetable garden. Again, I don’t want to sound like some ’90s lifestyle guru. Please don’t roll your eyes and think, “Oh, you eat your own produce that you grow in your garden? Wow, you’re so amazing.” I’ll never be that person!

The garden was completely bare when I bought the house, and I learned how to plant vegetable boxes so we could eat the food I grew. It literally went from brown grass right into beautiful blooming floral life. The chickens grew and moved outside. Our little blank canvas started to take beautiful shape and truly come alive.

As I write this, it is the following spring. We are one year after the pandemic hit, and I am writing stories for this book. It is very personal and eclectic and messy and real, and not too polished. I don’t want to be the late ’90s life-style guru that I could never relate to. I’m hoping that this book can be a reflection of what I’ve learned. And probably the most important thing I’ve come to realize is that as much as I was always looking for an anchor in the form of a home, I’ve fallen in love with the saying “Home is where the heart is,” because anywhere my girls and I are together, we will find happiness.

So, let me share my life with you. Let me share my journey. Let me share the new experiences I’ve had these two years, like growing a garden and raising chickens. By the way, they finally started laying their eggs! And now I am an official egg snob—I only want their eggs.

I never knew at age forty-six I would be a New Yorker, with two daughters and a full- time diversified job that I am so proud of, where I get to talk about food and design, and share my love of life and of relationships. And human stories, celebrating the incredible things happening all around us. The pandemic brought empathy and humanity and taking care of each other to the forefront, so let’s celebrate human capacity— the greatest challenges and the smallest wins and everything in between. And let’s find out if we are lucky enough to be homemakers with no definition to box us in and define us, and then let’s celebrate life and finding your own rebel homemaker and share what we’ve all learned along the way.

Extract from Rebel Homemaker – Food, Family, Life by Drew Barrymore. Find a recipe from the book – for Frankie and Olive’s roast chicken – here

Rebel Homemaker – Food, Family, Life by Drew Barrymore with Pilar Valdes is published by Ebury, price £25. To order a copy for £21.25 with free p&p until 5 December, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. For an exclusive extract and recipes from her book, go to you.co.uk