Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A PASSION FOR ALL THINGS VEG; Nigel Slater's New Cookbook Is as Lyrical and Enjoyable as the Kitchen Diaries

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A PASSION FOR ALL THINGS VEG; Nigel Slater's New Cookbook Is as Lyrical and Enjoyable as the Kitchen Diaries

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID SEXTON

TENDER: VOLUME 1

by Nigel Slater (Fourth Estate, [pounds sterling]30)

IT'S not such a common experience, opening for the first time a book you know will be in your life for years (always assuming you're spared). Nigel Slater's last cookbook, The Kitchen Diaries, was published four years ago and I've been consulting it, on and off, ever since. Beautifully written and produced, its description of how Slater cooked and ate for a year, in response to the seasons, is endlessly inspiring. So many worthless cookbooks by celebrity chefs are published all the time and instantly forgotten. The Kitchen Diaries is a classic that transcends the whole sorry genre.

Tender: Vol 1 develops from The Kitchen Diaries. On the eve of the mil-lennium, Nigel Slater moved into a new terraced home in Highbury with a long back garden. With help from Monty Don, he dug up the lawn and turned it into what is effectively an ornamental allotment, constructing six symmetrical beds, hedged with box, in which to grow his own food, and so be able to live, to cook and eat, even more in tune with the time of year and the weather.

In Taste: Volume 1, he sticks strictly to veg; in Volume 2, trailed on the inside back leaf, he'll be getting fruity. Thirtyodd different groups of vegetable are tackled, in alphabetical order. First he gives a lyrical account of his relationship to each one (many he never touched as child); then a description of growing it, if he does, and a list of the best varieties; then he muses on its place in the kitchen and what seasonings suit it, before finally giving his favourite recipes. There are more than 400 recipes in this heavy book of 618 pages and though they all involve vegetables, many are far from vegetarian -and just about every single one you want to cook, just as soon as the right time comes around.

Slater's writing, always a bit exquisite, has here been burnished a stage further into prose poetry, as when he hymns "the childish pop of a peapod, the inside of a fur-lined broad bean case, the cool vellum-like skin of a freshly dug potato". All food is full of associations and significance for him and he, in turn, is so attentive to the vegetables themselves that he often writes about them as though they were alive with their own preferences -"the potato and the leek are happy bedfellows," he tells us, "sprouts like to dance around in lots of rapidly boiling water with very little salt. …

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