Saturday 2 October 2010

REVIEW: Eating for England - The Delights and Eccentricities of the British at Table, by Nigel Slater (4.5*)

(Harper Perennial, 2008)

I loved this book! It's everything I wanted, but sadly didn't get, from Toast, Slater's much-lauded autobiography. Although the format is similar, Toast veered into pretension towards the end and left a sour taste in my mouth, bringing together otherwise pleasant food memories with an altogether more unsavoury sort of anecdote. Eating for England, on the other hand, is just plain delicious!
It is split into tiny mini-essays, ranging from a few lines to a couple of pages, each celebrating an aspect of British cuisine. Whether he's commenting on modern cookery habits or extolling the virtues of some traditional teatime treat, Slater's love of food floods every page with warmth, and his humour and pitch-perfect observations made me smile in recognition. From the first crack of an After Eight to the colourful splendour of a farmer's market, chips and seaside rock on the pier to a strawberry picnic, the modern Jamie Oliver-inspired Man in the Kitchen to that annoying woman at the supermarket who insists on using every voucher she's collected that week, there's something for everyone here! And of course, toast once again features several times, in all its many guises and delights...

Highly recommended for food lovers and nostalgic souls, not to mention non-Brits who are downright confused by all the strange names, regional variations, and clashes of terminology between Britain and Everywhere Else! My advice? Make yourself a large mug of tea and a slice of cake, curl up in a cozy armchair, and enjoy...

  • On summer cooking - "While the rest of Europe breathes hot summer colours of ripe red peppers, garlic and thyme, deep purple aubergines and grilled lamb over each other, we paint an altogether more delicate picture.  One of gentle flavours and pale hues, of poached salmon and watercress, cucumber and mint, strawberries and cherries, gooseberries and broad beans."
  • On white food - "Blancmange, flummery, syllabub - why is it that so many English puddings sound like someone talking under water?"
  • On acid drops - "You can't be ambivalent about food that is so sour it makes you shut one eye when you eat it."
  • On the seaside - "Spend a day by the British seaside and you will see how very different it is from anywhere else in the world.  We have coloured buckets and spades, a refreshing breeze, and probably because of that, bright-coloured windmills on sticks.  There are long promenades full of skateboarders dodging the elderly and wobbly toddlers negotiating a walk with their first oversized cornet, and everywhere the smell of seafood.  Extraordinary seafood it is too, presented without pretension, or indeed any attempt at style, but instantly recognisable as part of the great British seaside."

Source: I bought this book from a remainder store in an outlet village.