21 Nov 2012

Book review: Kitchen Diaries 2

Three kilos of books!

When did cookbooks get so big? So darned heavy? Every book I haul home from the library is large, hard covered, hundreds of pages and so very weighty!

On a whim, I actually got out my kitchen scales. My tax-return treat, ‘River Cottage Veg Every day’, weighs 1.4 kilos and has about 400 pages. The latest library loan, Nigel Slater’s ‘Kitchen Diaries 2’, is 1.6 kilos with around 530 pages. My goodness!

These are hardly books you can read in bed; I even find it hard to read them on the couch – I need to position some fat cushions on my lap to support the book and prevent me from sustaining a body strain injury from holding it up (it was traumatic enough dragging them home). It made me yearn for those little pocket Women’s Weeklies you see at the supermarket checkout, or the mini condensed versions of cheffy books that the newspaper gives away occasionally.

So here I sit, pillows and books on my lap, ibuprofen at the ready for what could be defined as a hazardous manual handling task.

Like his original ‘Kitchen Diaries’ book, KD2 is a book you can read chronologically, from page vii to 516, gradually moving thru the seasons and experiencing Nigel’s changing groceries, garden harvests, appetite and cooking. His considered, calm writing conveys his simple pleasure in these changes and swings: ‘sunlight … has a habit of changing my appetite. Pasta, potatoes and grains feel inappropriate and heavy.’

The other approach to KD2 is to randomly flip thru the pages, dipping in and out of Nigel’s life. What is so appealing to me is that it’s so ordinary. He readily admits ‘I am not a chef and never have been’, which to me signals that you’re in safe hands; no hard-to-find ingredient-of-the-moment or technical equipment only found in commercial kitchens.

He writes about leftovers, bare cupboards, making do with what remains in the vegie patch or in the shops at the end of the day on the way home. Let me flip for you – here on page 44, he writes of ‘the opened jars of sweet preserves in the fridge (that) seem to be multiplying’. I like that he too is staring into his fridge and facing dilemmas that we do.

He readily admits that not everything we cook and eat has to be ‘remarkable, memorable or classic. It doesn’t have to be great, the world’s best, or even anything to write about’. The pressure is off; it can be ‘just nice’.

Mr Slater, this is why I love you. But please, can you consider a lighter book next time?


  1. Every time I travel I have the dilemma of what books I buy because of their weight; it´s so annoying! And Slater´s Ripe and Tender were left behind because of that... too bad. Now I have to order them via amazon, jaja!

    1. i'm glad i'm not the only one who thinks this way, paula!

  2. Thanks for the review, E. I'm a big fan of Nigel Slater! :)

  3. He is so lovely,isn't he? so down to earth.
    thank you for saying hello.


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