Eating for England is an entertaining, detailed, and somewhat tongue-in-cheek observation of the British and their food, their cooking, their eating, and how they behave in restaurants, with chapters on, amongst other things, dinner parties, funeral teas, Indian restaurants, dieting, and eating while under the influence. Written in Nigel Slater's trademark readable style, Eating for England highlights our idiosyncratic attitude towards the fine art of dining.
©2007 Nigel Slater; (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, London, UK
I will never read a Nigel Slater book, now that I have heard two! Not all books are well-served by being spoken, but this one - with its brief, self-contained food essays - is very enjoyable as one races around the track or (even more so) walks to the local deli. Slater's dry sardonic wit (a perfect example is his deconstruction of the trifle) is amplified when the author delightfully reads his own work.
Not as enjoyable as his previous book Toast - but just because Toast told a story - this is just collection of food essays. They are well written and entertainig - will make you want to run out to an import food store and try a few new items - as I did. Start with Toast though. Toast will help you understand how Nigel came to be.
"And Scotland, Wales and Ireland ............"
Nigel Slater is a greedy guts. There can't be any British foods, sweet or savoury; gourmet or junk; trendy or long forgotten, that he hasn't eaten and (mostly) loved. Here he gives little chapters to all, from faggots to Abbey Crunch biscuits, poached salmon to sherbert lemons, and all the varied occasions on which they might be eaten. In his wise, witty and often waspish style, he delivers an amazingly history of British eating habits over the past 50 years or so. It is very entertaining and nostalgic, and you will soon be scouring the supermarket shelves for some long forgotten treat!
I listen to this book on my very long bus journey to work and I could feel myself absolutely drooling over the wonderful descriptions that Nigel slater uses to describe either his favourite dishes or his parents. My tastebuds were tantalised by the memory of sweets no longer available and his description of the fray bentos steak and kidney pie made me want to rush out and buy one. then again maybe not. An enjoyable listen and a great reminder that eating good food is not a crime but a joy.
"Makes me think English food really is bad"
Working abroad I’m often asked about British food. And why it's 'so bad'. So I bought this book looking for some good things to say about English food. Unfortunately I chose the wrong book to do that.
There are two main problems with this book for me. First, it feels like an apology for English food. After listening to an anecdote about the ritual of unwrapping a chocolate biscuit to get to the ‘treasure’ inside, we’re told that the biscuit itself doesn’t taste great and it’s only really eaten for nostalgic reasons. When the topic turns to the Sunday roast, I become more confident that we'll hear about good English food. But no, we’re told that brussels sprouts smell like fart. OK, maybe they do, but I’m looking for a more positive angle! I gave up hope when it was announced that toast is Britain’s offering to the gastronomic world. Blimey, English food really is bad, I thought.
The second major problem with the book is the structure. Chapters are very short and don’t seem to be in any particular order with topics introduced and then abandoned willy nilly. We’re told that summer food is lighter in England than in other countries. It’s ‘a water colour compared to European gouache’. Interesting, I think. But before I’ve even had time to settle down ready to hear more, it's back to the topic of cheap biscuits from the supermarket or the merits of processed cheese on white bread.
This book is read with enthusiasm and it’s full of nostalgic stories, some of which I could relate to. There are nibbles of interesting information but nothing to really to get your teeth into. Like eating one of my old school dinners, I got to the end but I didn’t enjoy it.
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