Hesser, now a reporter for the _New York Times _food section, starts with an account of her walks in the garden. She goes there in the evenings, partly for refreshment and partly because she knows that M. Milbert, ''a coarse and unpleasant old man'', will be inside his cottage eating dinner. But the walks provoke her. She realizes that she must discover much more about this garden to be the best cook she can be: ''I needed to know what was going on within those walls in order to better understand my ingredients in the kitchen. I wanted to know why thyme's intensity fluctuated, why the leeks sweetened with age, when the raspberries would be at their peak.'' What else could she do but seek out the aloof Monsieur Milbert?