Nigel Slater's approach to writing is rather like his food; straightforward, assured and tasty. Eating For England is an extraordinary journey, meandering from Spangles to scones, through rhubarb, cakes and custard, taking in the appeal of Fray Bentos pies, fantail shortbread and Dairylea triangles. There are no pretensions here and almost every anecdote is a trip down memory lane. He's a wry observer of human nature and captures the essence of so many food snobberies in his down to earth descriptions.
It's a quirky and idiosyncratic collection of his musings. Whether he's talking about farmer's markets, fish and chips, Jamie Oliver or Marmite, he's entertaining and often thoughtful. I bought the Audible version and I'll happily listen to it again.
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...
I love Nigel Slater's writing, whether it's his newspaper columns, recipes or of course the quite brilliant memoir, 'Toast'. Here, he takes an affectionate look at the British attitude to food, exploring the peculiarities of our tastes and how they can differ spectacularly from even our European neighbours, let alone other cuisines of the world. He can be critical, but the general tone is celebratory. It's the kind of book you might fish out of your bag on the bus to read a few choice bits in between stops or, dare I say it, keep on the shelf in the loo for a crafty read when nature calls. It's a hotch-potch for sure, but it's never less than warm, wryly funny, a tiny bit rude and wonderfully nostalgic. Nigel's take on the particular experience of Toblerone eating was worth the price of admission for me!
I love Nigel Slater's food, and I loved his book Toast even more. Touching, beautifully written, insightful, honest. So I downloaded Eating for England. Such a disappointment. To be fair, the writing style is just as good, but I started to wonder whether he's been paid to plug all those horrible confectionary and biscuit brands. I understand that he, like the rest of us in his age group, have fond memories of fantail shortbreads and Oxo cubes, but the reason we like Nigel is for his original and accessible cooking. I don't need any more info about KitKats thankyou. I actually skipped several chapters about biscuits. Waste of his and my time, and paper, I want Nigel autobiographicals and recipes that don't involve tripe please.
Is there a finer modern writer on food than Nigel Slater? I doubt it. The language, imagery and nostalgic remembrance of food he utilises in his writing creates a blend that will often leave you smiling in recognition, and like all good food, leaving you wanting more.
But whilst this book has all the elements of a great food writer at his best, it suffers (in my opinion anyway) from being really badly edited. There are countless short vignettes and reflections on British food and eating culture that unfortunately suffer from being split up from each other and dotted about the book, resulting in a lot of repetition. Thus we have Slater again and again repeating the same comments made earlier in the book as if he has forgotten that he had already mentioned them, or variations on the same theme. This book could have been so much more substantial if the various common themes (e.g farmers markets vs. supermarkets; the history of different puddings and cakes; chocolates and sweets) had been grouped together into longer essays rather than the shorter segments that they are.
One suspects this was done as a Christmas gift book to be placed in the loo. Which is a shame. Not only does it result in repeated comments, it also results in Slater contradicting himself: take for example his comment on the Rich Tea biscuit, "What sort of person chooses a pale, dry Rich Tea when there are so many other more interesting biscuits to choose from?", but later on, "I get agitated when people put its straightforward character down." Small pedantic errors also jar...in a section devoted to "The Glorious British Chocolate Bar", he refers to Maltesers, Black Magic and Rolos - none of them in my definition chocolate bars. Maybe it's just laziness...but the book could have been so much better had it been better edited.
Despite that, one should not take away from the basic fact that Nigel Slater is simply a brilliant writer. His forensic analysis on how and what we eat (the process of eating a custard from Marks made me shiver in identification with him!!) is awesome. And no-one but no-one can make the eating of toast as sexy as he does.
Most of you, if you're cookbook collectors, know by now that you rarely get a straight-through cookbook. Rather, it's usually a melange of "where this recipe came from" coupled with some history and/or the author's comments. Such, even more so, is the case with EATING FOR ENGLAND.
This is really not so much a cookbook as a reminiscence and "thoughts" about cooking and England. I was immediately reminded of the novel "Barring Some Unforeseen Accident" in that the author incorporates an actual cookbook within the novel (not anything you're going to want to make, by the way). The way that author pokes fun at cookbooks and their "makers" is very funny, and if you've read enough of these, you'll see what I mean.
My only real complaint with the book is that if you're under thirty, you might not remember or warm to some of the recipes and rembrances that are in this wonderful read. Other than that, have at it.
One thing is for certain, Nigel Slater is passionate about food--and England--and this makes for a very entertaining read. If you're English, you'll understand ninety percent of this book. If you're not, you'll get an education. Either way, the fodder inside is as tasty as the cover looks. I would also recommend any of Delia's books, or FRUGAL FOOD for those looking to save a bit or two.