Here is a chap who really injects poetry into cookery. He is not a chef or a professional cook but an enthusiastic cookery writer who just adores cooking and comes up with so many marvellous and tasty dishes. His honesty and approach to food and to ingredients is so attractive and he is great to read. During my writing of this book Nigel Slater dived into the Twitter waters and has been a breath of fresh air. I followed him on it very quickly and was immensely flattered when he chose to follow me. His photos of his garden and of his recipes have lit up many a dull day as have his replies, often humorous and always fascinating. His passion for food and cooking is what I identify with. He is just a year older than me so perhaps we share a lot in common as to the foods we have experienced in life. But he talks about food the way I do and the way I feel about being in the kitchen is something he seems to echo in his writing. In an interview in the Guardian, he summed it up perfectly for me: ‘Food is, for me, for everybody, a very sexual thing and I think I realised that quite early on. I still cannot exaggerate how just putting a meal in front of somebody is really more of a buzz for me than anything. And I mean anything. Maybe that goes back to trying to please my dad, I don’t know. It’s like parenting in a way I suppose.’ In another interview in The Observer in 2003 he talked about how he prepared for his autobiographical work, ‘Toast.’ Brought back so many memories for me and I am sure thousands of others of our age! ‘He whisked up butterscotch Angel Delight and let Space Dust crackle on his tongue; he raided his local corner shops for Smash mashed potato and salad cream and ham in a tin (with jelly); he steamed Heinz sponge puddings, rudely licked out Walnut Whips, spooned up the syrup of canned mandarins and sucked on sherbet fountains. The idea was to recapture the authentic flavour of his growing up, unlock lost time with the help of a lemon meringue pie. His great regret was that he could not find an Arctic Roll; the bonus was that all of the rest of it tasted great. ‘I mean I haven’t eaten it again,’ he says, a little hastily, over a perfect antipasti lunch in his stripped bare Georgian house in north London. ‘I don’t now have cravings for Fray Bentos steak and kidney pies or tinned baked beans and sausages, but I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. Though whether it was the flavour I enjoyed or the fact that it brought back these floods of memory I’m not sure.’ Slater’s personal culinary quest resulted in Toast, an inspired memoir, boil-in-the-bag Proust, in which he measures out the sadnesses of his growing up in Milky Ways and fairy drops. At its heart is an attempt to recreate his relationship with his mother, who died of asthma when he was nine, through the taste of some of the food she (often unsuccessfully) served up.’
If you have not heard of him (where have you been?) buy one of his books, his Kitchen Diaries-Books 1 and 2, are SO much more than recipe books. Or click on the link at bottom of this blog to his site. The man is a genius…and an incredibly wonderful person with it – he seems to have time for everybody.
And part of the beauty of so many of his recipes is the simplicity of them. I asked Nigel Slater on Twitter why it is that often the recipes with the simplest ingredients are the best. His reply summed it up: ‘Because the flavours are clear and true and not confused as they can sometimes be in complicated cooking.’