…and I loves it.
The cookbook in question is Nigel Slater‘s The Kitchen Diaries, and it comes highly recommended to all of you, particularly if you’re on a voyeuristic food diary kick like me. The book’s subtitle explains it all: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater; that’s right, it’s pretty much a year-long food diary, so it’s basically my dream cookbook — with Mr. Slater’s excellent writing acting as amuse bouche.
I had first read Mr. Slater’s words in Toast, his creatively-structured memoir; each stage in his childhood, adolescence and adult life is characterized by what he was eating at the time, whether it was bread-and-butter pudding, jam tarts or — yes — toast. In The Kitchen Diaries, Mr. Slater does something similar but instead of telling the story of his life in food, he chronicles his year, right down to a day in March where he “[fails] to notice there is bugger all to eat in the house. At seven thirty [he dashes] to the corner shop, returning with a can of baked beans, a bag of frozen fries and some beers.”
That’s right: Mr. Slater does not lie. Who hasn’t been faced with that? Of course, Mr. Slater also has days where he cobbles together meals with what he’s cleaned out of his pantry (white bean and tarragon soup on May 9), the bounty he plucks from his garden (July 15th’s zucchini cakes with dill and feta), and what he’s toted home from the Marylebone farmer’s market (celeriac and walnut remoulade, and a coffee and walnut cake on November 28).
Regardless of what he’s cooking in his lovely-sounding kitchen — “…the doors to the small, narrow kitchen opened out on to the garden… I cook with the doors open on even the wettest day. The smell of spring rain as I chop and stir brings with it a gentle freshness and energy” — it’s Mr. Slater’s superb writing that makes The Kitchen Diaries read as exactly that: a highly personal journal that happens to focus on food. I can’t even dream of one day possessing such skills myself, though I know I can turn to this (cook)book for inspiration.
But forget about what I think, and read what the writer himself has to say*:
It is always difficult for an author to name a favourite book from their own backlist, but when I am asked I invariably choose The Kitchen Diaries… an account of more or less everything I cooked in the course of a year, presented as an illustrated diary… Some say it is worth the price simply for the brownie and the double ginger cake recipes, both of which seem to have gathered something of a following. I rather like the pork and lemon meatballs myself (April 20th).
I’ve got a few recipes bookmarked to try, and once I do I’ll be giving you an update.
* from nigelslater.com