Monday, May 11, 2009

My Gastro-Lit Obsession

Do you have this cookbook? If not, you seriously need to get it.
I love it so much that even though I've owned it almost a year, I am reluctant to officially finish it because then I'll never again be able to read it for the first time. So I skip over a page here and there, just so I can leave myself something to look forward to.

"Whatever is she rattling on about? It's a bloody cookbook, for Heaven's sake." 
In the vein of MFK Fisher, Elizabeth David and Laurie Colwin, Slater's recipes provide the framework to delve into a rhapsodical exploration of food, friends and the art of eating. 
It's culinary literature.
Keep reading. You'll see.

Nigel Slater espouses one grand theme in this book: "Right food, right place, right time." As he puts it, "I do believe that a cold Saturday in January is a good time to make gingerbread. It is when I made it and we had a good time with it. It felt right. So I offer it to you as a suggestion, just as I offer a cheesecake at Easter, a curry for a cold night in April and a pale gooseberry fool for a June afternoon. It is about seasonality, certainly, but also about going with the flow, cooking with the natural rhythm of the earth." 

For a year, he kept a detailed journal of more or less everything he cooked and ate. The photos included were shot at his home in "real time", so if the entry says April 2nd or October 9th, that is when it was shot. 

The art direction in the book is pulse-quickening. Here's the splendidly pink spread detailing all the recipes for the month of May...

Don't they all look so enticing?

April 30
Mint tea and a lemon-frosted pistachio cake
"Friends for tea, and it's the most magical of days, a cool summer afternoon in the garden, all full-blown roses and cucumber sandwiches. Today's cake is not  a light-as-a-feather-sponge but a moist affair, dense with pistachios and ground almonds. I flavor it gently with rosewater but this is not essential."
(Excuse my trilobyte. He assisted me in weighing down the page.)

May 4th
Chickpeas with harissa, basil and ham
"There is the constant patter of rain on the kitchen roof and the gentle rattle and putter of a pan of simmering chickpeas. I don't always cook these hazel-nut sized legumes from scratch...I guess I just wanted to smell them cooking today -- a mealy, nutty smell that must have filled Middle Eastern kitchens from time immemorial."
(May 4th)

July 24
Baked salmon and a black-currant trifle
"Dinner for six. I sometimes feel like a cooking machine. To follow [the meal], we had a trifle so divine I wish I had made two, the last one to eat alone, in my bathrobe at breakfast."
(Nigel's delightful trifle)

September 16
A chunky, inelegant dish of baked lamb
"So much food is so exquisitely contrived that the 'chunky, rustic-looking' dish, inelegant and apparently thrown together,  is something of a rare treat. This is the food I long for whenever I am presented with a fashionable chef's twee plateful of contorted food drizzled with a ring of 'jus.'
(Baked lamb with tomatoes and rosemary)

Next week, when my son's annual school fundraiser is over and my life will be my own again, I will be sitting in my back garden, Campari and soda within reach, this book in my lap. 

If you want to know more about Nigel Slater, he has a gorgeous website. Click HERE


Caro said...

I love Nigel Slater. So simple, and yet, so sensual about his food. It's a slippery slope though. One day, in years to come, you will find yourself sitting naked and cross-legged on the bed, dipping toasted soldiers into oozy Brie baked in it's box. It will be Nigel's fault . . . you have been warned!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Bos: I love that scary as it sounds!

pve design said...

A feast for one's eyes and one's loins!

Anonymous said...

OMG i cannot believe you did a post on that book. I literally took the book on vacation with me!! Who needs a Candice Bushnell when you can have Nigel writing about tomatoes roasting in an oven. AND his tv shows are amazing!!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

RoyalApothic: We have so much in common you're scaring me...:)

Anonymous said...

well, birds of a fellow.....

hellebore said...

Whenever I'm feeling particularly glum about living in the cold damp little island, your blog reminds me of some of the more positive aspects of British culture - Vanessa Bell, Nigel Slater, Persephone Books etc.
In fact you've inspired me to make a special birthday trip to Liberty's for tea and a wallow in their haberdashery. Even though I live in London, my three very small children rather restrict my movements so thank you for the Californian enthusiasm!

A Super Dilettante said...

I haven't got this book but I'd love to have one. I'm addicted to buying cookery books because I love them!! I told myself not to buy another one until next Christmas :) My colleagues are a big fan of Nigel Slater!! I love Nigella Lawson - esp. her first book "How to Eat: Pleasures and Principles of Good Food" for me is one the best - beautiful writings, philosophy about food, how to entertain guests and you name it, this book's got all the answers - it's a banquet!

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Hellebore: What a lovely comment! Thank you so much for your kind words...

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

This sounds divine. I must have it.
Whenever I watch Nigella, I always have the strongest urge to go to the refrigerator and eat lemon curd with my fingers. I have a feeling this book will produce the same desire.

I can't wait.

Laura said...

Oh I absolutely adore this book...his clams with sherry are wonderful! If you haven't already, I would highly recommend that you check out his memoir Toast. Wonderful, funny, poignant, terribly sad, all at the same time.

Glenda said...

I well have to investigate this book quickly.

I love sensual food. I must get my paws on this.


Tricia said...

Lisa, perhaps your blog is the culprit, but this wonderful book is now out of stock on Amazon! I immediately skidded over to eBay and snatched one for $13 (and the seller has 9 more copies). Thanks for another satisfying read.

Annie Crowninshield said...

Phenomenal! I can't believe I don't own it already. Michael often comments that I am the only woman he knows that "reads" cookbooks in bed. I won't ruin the mystery by exposing all of you. Thanks for the tip.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Tricia: I hope you like it as much as I do...please let me know!

home before dark said...

Perhaps a book Proust could have written if he had ever gotten past madelines and tea.

Megan said...

I don't have that one but happened across one of his others in the library yesterday which opens with a lyrical rhapsody on the humble spud - so I am hooked!!

Anzu said...

Nigel Slater is great - simple, seasonal and a real celebration of British comfort food.
Your blog is one of the few I actually READ, rather than flick through images. Well worth the time..

Joslyn said...

oooh yes i'm having a major gastro-lit moment too.

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