"I suspect that for most of us, there has been a point when toast has briefly been our best friend. Maybe we were broke, or busy, or drunk, or lonely, or in need of its crusty, buttery qualities. For many of us, who understand the real point of toast, it may just continue that way."
One of my very earliest reviews (very earliest=no one read it) on this here blog was of Nigel Slater's memoir, Toast, which I'd read because of the BBC adaptation of it that had been on that Christmas (it was really good.) There's not really any need to read it, but the point is that I really really liked basically everything about it- Nigel Slater is a really good writer, AND he likes to write about food, AND he can make you pretty much taste the foods he's talking about, AND if you ever met him, he'd probably cook them for you. It's just not right for him to have that much going for him, really.
In spite of my Slater-love, I hadn't heard of Eating for England until Ellie mentioned it in a post on... her most comforting books? Or something? I forget, but anyway, the point is that I read about it and HAD TO HAVE IT so I bought it and promptly didn't read it for about four months which actually isn't that long in my book life. Besides, I had to save it for summer because just look at the rock on the cover! Doesn't it make you want to go to the seaside RIGHT NOW? (Just me? Ok then...)
So, what it is. Eating for England is basically a collection of teeny weeny essays (most of them are around a page long) about all the foods that have found a home in England one way or another, and the idea for it originated when Slater was asked to describe British food on an American radio show and was stumped because, although we don't really have one specific food culture, there are a lot of foods we associate with home, I think. The time he was given on the radio show was clearly not enough, and so we get a book about it, which is just awesome.
Now, I really loved this book and found more than enough places to agree with Slater (marmite! Tunnock's teacakes! How much we all love chocolate!) but I can imagine that someone older than me would find even more points of agreement in this book and might even love it more than I did (which was, if I haven't made it clear yet, a LOT.) I always think that the best thing about Nigel Slater is how he can make you nostalgic about foods you might not even like that much and probably still can buy, and I don't know how he does it, but somehow you start thinking 'I haven't had a custard cream in a while, maybe I should get some' because of that one time when you were about 10 when you loved them. Food memories are ones that appeal to all of the senses, I think, and maybe that's why they're so potent, but Slater just manages to make them even stronger by being amazing.
My other favourite thing about this book, aside from the nostalgia, is something really specific to me. As you might have noticed, I read a fair few books about food, and basically all of them are along the lines of 'you should not eat meat!' 'You should not eat meat OR dairy!' 'You should only eat seasonal foods' and frankly, it all brings out the most horrendous guilt in me. Nigel Slater does not do this AT ALL- even though he's quite a big advocate of farmers markets, and of eating seasonally (or he at least mentions these in some essaylets) he's just as likely to be talking about how amazing some ridiculously processed food like kit-kats are. It's really clear that he just really loves food- of all types, in moderation, and served with great dollops of nostalgia.
Also he really bloody loves toast and it's just impossible not to be charmed by someone like that.
I've been trying to think about whether this book would work for anyone who wasn't raised in the UK (if you were, I mean, seriously, go and read it now. It's ridiculously lovely) and I think, kind of? It's definitely not going to have the same resonance because, you know, you're probably going to have to google some of the foods he talks about, but it's still amusing enough and we surely have some similar culinary touchstones (we all love toast, right?) that it would still make sense in other places? Actually, I'm pretty much just saying this because I want to find out if these things are true, so if any of you want to read it, you can definitely report back and I will listen.
YAAAAY! I did mention it somewhere... favourite feel-good books or something... and I reviewed it waaaaay back when my blog was still tiny and new and not very busy. JUST LIKE YOUR REVIEW OF TOAST. Another spooky coincidence. I'd never heard of it either, but I was on holiday and in an arcade of shops which contained THE WORKS and it was in there for about £3. And there was rock on the cover, and I'd already read Toast, and I was like, I MUST HAVE THIS. I love it when I pick up books like that and they turn out to be yummy in EVERY WAY.ReplyDelete
I think I bought quite a few 'nostalgic except I still eat them sometimes' foods that week. Biscuits. Uncut loaves for toast. Beans and mini sausages! I still love ALL THOSE THINGS. *sighs* I really need to read this book again I think. It's a great summer read, but I think I might find it equally gorgeous as an autumn comfort read when I want to eat all the things anyway because it's getting colder. I'M SO GLAD YOU LOVED IT TOO!
I think it was in feel good books... I tried to find the post but failed but whatever, all that matters is that you led me to the JOY of this book (which I paid full price for in Waterstones because I wanted it so much, but it's fine because I had a voucher). But yes, yummy in every way is about the perfect way to describe this!Delete
Mmmmm, nostalgic foods. I always think I've outgrown them but then I'll have a jammy dodger (or whatever) and I'm like 'ohhhh this is awesome'. It's fun. I REALLY DID LOVE IT THANK YOU FOR TELLING ME ABOUT IT!
A guy who comes to the shop bought us some of those jammy dodgers with the custard creamy stuff in them too and I was like ZOMG I DON'T THINK I'VE EATEN THESE SINCE I WAS ABOUT 10. Mum's not keen so I've got them aaaaaaaall to myself. :DDelete
Wait, wait- Jammy dodgers with cream in OR Jam creams (jam creams have like sugar on top of the jam). Because the former sounds gross, but the latter is my ACTUAL FAVOURITE BISCUIT (oreos don't count cause they're cookies.)Delete
I want to read it... but the fact that I probably won't be able to get hold of most of the food he talks about here might make the experience too sad.. maybe I should read it before I next go back to England!ReplyDelete
Awwwwww- you definitely should! OR get some nice English person to send you things in the post!Delete
Oooh, speaking of foods- Are pocky really easy to get in Japan and are there as many flavours as the internet has led me to believe? Have just discovered Mikados (their English brand name thingy) and I'm obsessed with them!
I should! Hehe.Delete
Pocky is ridiculously easy to buy here. It's everywhere!! (Okay, so not literally, but it's at every convenience store, and there are about 4 convenience stores within easy walking distance of my flat..)
There are loads of flavours, but not all at the same time if that makes sense. There are seasonal flavours, and special limited edition flavours, and then regional ones which people buy as souvenirs. There are also other things which are pretty much exactly the same as pocky but have different brand names (and are often nicer?). I want to eat pocky now..
Ehrmergerd that all sounds so cool (and you are way better at explaining that than wikipedia, btw!) *proposes an England-Japan food swap* Hehehehe.Delete
This sounds interested and yet I really can't muster the enthusiasm for toast. However I AM interested in learning more about some of the British foods introduced to me via HP.ReplyDelete
Alley, you don't like toast? WTF dude, it's like I don't even KNOW you anymore! (There are many many many other foods than toast talked about.) I feel like you could read this and feel nostalgic for foods you've never even had, he's pretty good at explaining what everything is and stuff.Delete
I don't NOT like toast. It's just "oh is that toast there? OK. What? I can't have toast? That's fine." I will eat toast if given to me. Sometimes I will even MAKE toast, assuming I am making other food to go on top of it (mmm poached egg + avocado) but that's it.Delete
But but but toast with lots of butterrrrr melting in it and and carbs! Toast is the best way to have bread, basically. (I appreciate the fact that you don't HATE toast, though. I can't even imagine such a person, frankly.)Delete
I love food! And I love people who also love food! SO I think this would be a win with me, even if it was mostly British-y foods.ReplyDelete
I don't get the love of toast thing though? I like toasted sandwiches, sometimes, but in my head just toast with some butter is a thing you eat when you're sick and need to settle your stomach. Weird.
I can't imagine anyone hating it, but I CAN imagine people getting a bit confused just like 'wtf is a custard cream?' or whatever. It DOES give a pretty good insight into the British palate, though, or at least to mine (we find comfort in a lot of sugar. And chocolate. Like children.)Delete
I'm starting to think toast might be an English thing! I feel like everyone I know really likes toast! And yeah, I totally eat it when I'm ill, but also all the rest of the time. It's the best food!
Oooh oooh! I think I may have to read this tooReplyDelete