This very weighty tome is a kitchen diary offering many observations, facts, happenings and of course over 250 different seasonal recipes from acclaimed British food writer and broadcaster Nigel Slater.
Would it be fairer to describe this book as a more edited, polished memory dump from the author, providing a little bit of everything along the way that is wrapped around a diary? The author is clear to note that whilst items follow over the course of a year, they are not a strict chronology but more a focussed collection of events that have happened over the years, so something that happened on a given November day would have happened on that given day, but not necessarily in the same year as the previous or subsequent diary "entry". Not that it makes a difference in the grand scheme of things though!
This is a book that, to be fair, you will get as much out of it as you put in through reading and comprehension. If you use the book solely as a source of recipes then, whilst you will invariably find many interesting recipes from the sheer multitude on offer, you will be missing much by ignoring the surrounding text.
When browsing through this book one notes that whilst the recipes have been "translated" to U.S. imperial units, at the same time ignoring their metric equivalencies, there are many cultural references that might have non-native Britons scratching their head in puzzlement before seeking clarification to a small, possibly insignificant point. There are a number of average to relatively good photographs to break up the text but they just don't feel like they fit, feeling instead that they are there solely as filler material to "illustrate" the book. Technically the photographs are quite good, particularly when they accompany a recipe yet many just feel out of place. It would have been better to have had smaller photographs accompanying EACH recipe and then use a few hand-drawn illustrations if one did need a "barrier" or "filling" image. A small thing that doesn't detract from the overall delight of this book, but when you pay a premium price for something one becomes invariably more picky over the smallest of things.
The end of the book featured a very detailed index to the recipes, referenced by key ingredient) which is a Godsend when you see the sheer bulk of this book. It would have been nice if each chapter (month) had a separate list of the recipes within to help navigate as the internal signposting is quite sparse... but it was not to be. Even a mini index to some "key happenings" or traditions would have been appreciated.
This book was an enjoyable gambol throughout a typical "year" of a British food writer and active cook. If you have enjoyed other books by this author then you won't be disappointed but if the name Nigel Slater doesn't mean anything to you, it could also be a good introduction to his work, his viewpoints and style - and after that there is no shortage of other Nigel Slater books to keep you occupied for a long time.
I love this style of Nigel Slaters, and I am a huge fan of his more contemporary recipe books. His conversational skill at putting food together is a really appealing concept in how to eat, I have literally hundreds of recipe books- but my concept is to look at what I have in the house to eat, and then consider what I want to eat and try to marry the two together using experience, Slater's wisdom at times and recipes that are at hand. This is very much a method which works with the style of this book. Yes he does have recipes but the book is bigger than the recipes tucked into it.