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Alien reading

Eating for England

I've finished my first book for 2011 and it's... non-fiction! Sometimes I surprise even myself. LOL. In fact, this first book is for one of my challenges, The Foodie's Reading Challenge which is being hosted by Margot at Joyfully Retired. And the book is Eating for England by Nigel Slater.

First of all I have to confess to being a huge fan of Nigel Slater's.

He's not an actual chef but a food writer for The Observer newspaper who not only publishes cookbooks but presents cookery programmes on the BBC. His style is not your usual; Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver he is not. Nigel is a man in love with food and it shows. He has a wonderful, almost seductive manner of talking about the food as he chops, stirs, mixes, 'eats'... certainly one of the most soothing voices on television in my opinion. On his website he says:

"There is something quietly civilizing about sharing a meal with other people. The simple act of making someone something to eat, even a bowl of soup or a loaf of bread, has a many-layered meaning. It suggests an act of protection and caring, of generosity and intimacy. It is in itself a sign of respect."

I completely agree.

Anyway, Nigel Slater has a number of cookbooks available in bookshops but he also has an autobiography, Toast, a really excellent read which was dramatised by the BBC this Christmas, and Eating for England.

The British have a curiosly broad culinary identity. Only the naive would now try to pin us down as a meat-and-two-veg culture. You could argue that ours is a rich and multiculturally exciting cuisine reflecting a country of diverse tastes and open minds; but equally it sometimes looks as if we are in a state of total culinary shambles.

Pretty accurate I would say, and Eating for England is a book that illustrates that fact. Mostly, it's a nostalgic look back at the kind of things us Brits ate when we were younger. He's around the same age as me so much of this nostalgia resonated with me very strongly. He discusses at great length the biscuits we ate then and sometimes still eat; the sweets and chocolate, some of which are still with us, some not; the puddings which were normal fare but which now tend to be cooked by posh restaurants (some of us still make them!). But also he's a great advocate for shopping at Farmer's Markets and local butchers rather than the supermarket. Which is fine if you have these available to you but not everyone does. I find the Farmer's Market to be expensive to be honest and where meat is concerned I shop both in the local butcher and the supermarket.

This book is packed full of interest really. There are lovely little observations about us as a nation: the awkard way we tip in restaurants, the various types of home cooks, how to throw a coffee morning, splitting the bill - how there is always the one person who wants to pay for exactly what they had - what to eat for tea in the winter sitting by the log fire, summer picnics, food shopping on the internet. The list is endless to be honest. Really and truly anyone wanting to understand the culinary side of the British should read this book. It's a lot of fun (you have to be able to laugh at yourself), it's nostalgic and it's also quite instructive with many ideas and thoughts. In Nigel's words:

Eating for England is simply a personal celebration of the food this nation cherishes, the rituals we observe, the curious and even eccentric thing that is the British and their food.

And what did I get as late Christmas present from my eldest daughter this year? These:

My husband said, 'Not more cookbooks!' as I drooled over the beauty of these books. They are truly a work of art... about as seductive as the man himself.


You had to put a piccy of him up there didn't you? *melts*

Nigel is a man in love with food...
This! This is what I was trying, unsuccessfully, to articulate the other day! *g* Well said.

*nods all the way through your review* This book sounds awesome, I really can't wait to read it. I love the way he thinks of British food - I'm always wanting some kind of proper description of 'British food' but it's hard to place. Love the quotes. I heard about the adaption of Toast a little too late, but I shall have to find it. Probably after I've read that book. ;)

My husband said, 'Not more cookbooks!' as I drooled over the beauty of these books. They are truly a work of art... about as seductive as the man himself.
I'm beginning to wonder how much genetic information we share... ;)

I cooked from Appetite the night they all arrived. A simple garlic sauce for pasta - but gawd was it gorgeous. Garlic roasted as a whole head, until almost caramelised - just like NS said, it was like butter when it was done - and then mashed and cooked into cream with thyme (well, I used sage - didn't have any fresh thyme). I could have eaten the garlic on it's own and forgotten the sauce altogether it smelt and tasted so good, lol. It was quite hard to resist. I threw in some sage roasted butternut squash and roasted sugarsnap peas and mangetout. It was just as good as it looked and sounded in the book. *heaven*
Well, I was worried people might not know what he looks like. (Well that's *my* story... *cough*)

I think it would be best to read Toast first as there's lots in it that was not in the drama - good as that was. Have you got it?

I'm beginning to wonder how much genetic information we share... ;)

Me too... it's freaky.

Wow, that garlic sauce sounds lovely, except that I'm not fond of cream, I suppose something else could be used. Love garlic roasted and often pop it in with wedged potatoes or a tray of roasted veg. P grew some last year and for several months in the autumn we had garlic with everything. Was wonderful so he growing it again this year.

Eating for England - Yanks?

How would you say this book would read for a Yank? Is there too much nostalgia and reminiscing or would we Yanks be able to "get it" and enjoy the book, and perhaps even broaden our understanding of our British friends?

Re: Eating for England - Yanks?

That's a good question. I think there would be enough general commentary in it for you to enjoy. I also suspect that some of the food nostalgia you would get anyway as some things started out over there! Plus, you've been here and you know about a lot of stuff. :-)

Re: Eating for England - Yanks?

I am really keen to read it but I looked it up on Kindle and it's only a few $ less than the hardback so I believe I will wait until it's not the hot read and the price comes down. Amazon said the publisher set the price - I am sure capitalizing on it being new and so popular.

Re: Eating for England - Yanks?

Weirdly, the book is not that new... I reckon capitalizing on him being really popular right now though, with TV shows and so forth, plus the new drama of his autobiography. They'll getcha every way they can!
How fascinating. He is indeed ruggedly handsome and, yes, there's something seductive and sensual about a man who gets turned on by preparing, serving and eating good food. (May I say: hubba-hubba!)

Thank goodness for the internet: when I read an English cookbook the words may be recognizable, but the recipes still require some translation. For example, I had to do a google! search before I understood the reference to a swede(!) in one recipe (here in the US, the cook would need to substitute a rutabaga, I think), and of course the oven temperatures always need a quick calculation (...how many degrees Fahrenheit would that be?...)

But that can be a lot of fun.
It's odd. He's not a traditionally gorgeous man, but he has a real screen presence and his voice is so expressive and soothing.

I think swedes cause a lot of confusion. Even in this country - in Cornwall we called them turnips but they're really swedes and my husband was constantly confused by what I meant when we first married. Turnips are much paler and smaller but the taste is similar. I don't know what you would use instead... parkerspen might know as she's been to the UK several times. I'll ask her to comment.
Yes, my mom and dad grew turnips in their garden that were very much smaller, and that's what we always used at home. A rutabaga is what the 'net also calls a swede: a big old member of the turnip family, maybe seven or eight inches in diameter for the big ones.

...Ooh, my dad used to tell a silly story about some folks back in the hills who rarely got to town and thought it was highfalutin' to refer to potatoes as "pertaters" instead of just "taters." But making the effort to impress an honored guest, they also began calling turnips "perturnips."

...Well, it isn't high comedy, but it passed the time before they had radio and electricity to run it, when my father was a child. They lived WAY back in them Tennessee hills and "hollers" far out in the country about a hundred years ago. No exaggeration. Dad would have been 100 years old last May. Wow.
they also began calling turnips "perturnips."

LOL! My grandma never called potatoes anything other than 'tatas' or 'taties'. That's very old Cornish dialect. My 90 year old uncle always says it too.

Your mention of the Tennessee hills reminds me of a documentary we saw a couple of days ago, made by the American comedian, Rich Hall. It was all about how the American south is portrayed in Hollywood movies, (with not much accuracy) and was excellent. If it comes your way I highly recommend.
We call potatoes "taters precious" - guess who is a Lord of the Rings fan. See it even seeps into our cooking and food terms!
Those lovely Brits, isn't swede a funny name (don't swat me, caffyolay). I always thought suede when I heard it and thought the veg should have soft skin like a peach. *g*

However, rutabaga is what I understand as well. Although I have also read it as eggplant, but I do think you call eggplants "eggplants" in the UK, don't you?
It just fascinates me how things get called different names in different regions of the same country, let along in another nation.

In Pennsylvania where my husband is from, a fizzy soft drink is a "soda," whereas it's a "pop" here in Michigan. When I was a kid and we went to Tennessee for every summer vacation, the term was "dope!" My eyes must have bugged out hugely the first time a cousin asked me if I wanted "a dope." Nobody knew why they called it that, but we figured it was because Coca Cola ("Co-cola") used to be a headache remedy that had coca extract in it. (That's the legend, anyway.)

But as far as I know, an eggplant is an eggplant anywhere English is spoken. <*g*>
I am from Minnesota originally and pop was the soft drink. Now living in Ohio I hear both. But how about that thing we sit and are a potato on - a couch or a sofa? And to keep it food related - is it hotdish or casserole?
Aha. Minnesota and Michigan agree on drinking pop, but Ohio is not sure, and Pennsylvania is definitely on the other side of the soda-pop controversy.

Usually I say couch, or sofa for variety, but some people I know admit to owning a davenport.

I only cook casseroles, myself, unless it's a "mess" of something like greens, spaghetti, chili, or so on. Isn't cooking educational?...or at least terminology is.
Oh my gosh, davenport. Mom (from Wisconsin) used to call it a davenport! Now that I am in Ohio I make casseroles, but growing up we always had hotdishes.
We always call it a settee! LOL. But couch and sofa are used too.

And 'casserole' for Peter and I and that's fairly common usage in the UK too.
Over here a settee is typically smaller and often it's wooden, although there are some that are upholstered. I wonder what you call a settee over there? Do you use the word divan?

Here's what I saw online - settee a long upholstered seat, usually high-backed and with arms at each end. Its ancestors were the settle (the wooden settee, but this word went out of fashion, me).
Yes, we do use divan... it's a BED. ;-))))))) Soooo funny.

Ah... I see how the word settee could've come from 'settle' though...
A bed?! How funny. Are you sure we speak the same language?
Nope... we just *have* to be different *GGG*... eggplant here is 'aubergine'. French word I think.
Heh! Love it! (I never looked up 'aubergine' but I know I've seen the word lurking in novels and such.)

Love that icon, too: "...A language that lurks in dark alleys, beats up other languages and rifles through their pockets for spare vocabulary." Perfect. It's how the language stays strong and lively!
Indeed. You are so continental . It's used here in so many Italian dishes but now coming into more popularity as a meat substitute. There was one on the menu yesterday - eggplant and brie sandwich - at the Conservatory.