From Publishers Weekly
Few writers could get away with what London Observer columnist Slater does here: jotting down what he eats and recording recipes for the homemade items over the course of a year. Slater, though, has the writing chops to make it work—as proven in his memoir Toast. His style is lazily thoughtful, but also honest and unfussy: January 9 sees a "gray, endless drizzle" that makes it "the sort of day on which to light the fire, turn on the radio and bake a cake." The recipe for Double Ginger Cake that follows, however, highlights this book's sometimes problematic Britishness when it calls for both golden syrup and stem ginger in syrup, available, a footnote claims, "in some supermarkets and specialty shops." Slater's food isn't British in the stodgy sense. Indeed, he smoothly incorporates the flavors of other cultures into his cooking to make Indian-influenced Spiced Roast Potatoes with Yogurt and Mint, for example. Yet local references and recommendations, such as a tip that the best hummus may be purchased "at the Green Valley, just off the Edgware Road," will frustrate readers in the U.S. As George Bernard Shaw once said, the British and the Americans are two peoples divided by a common language. Sadly, much of this wonderful book is lost in translation, or lack thereof. (Oct.)
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Cooking in harmony with the seasons' produce has inspired the talented London food writer to share his culinary diary across a 12-month cycle. Each date records the foods he produces for himself and for his friends. For those special dishes whose ingredients and preparation aren't obvious, Slater provides recipes. These range in complexity from a simple herbed chicken stew to an eggplant, tomato, and lemongrass curry. Fresh fruits and vegetables star throughout, and he relies on locally raised organic goods wherever possible. Experienced cooks will have little trouble interpreting some of the vague directions or translating native British produce to American kitchens. Photographs also help guide cooks. Slater disparages the idea that consumers demand out-of-season goods, calling it a myth generated by supermarkets. Yet even he can't resist the lure of fresh fruit in the depths of winter. His diary's January 4 entry notes that he crowns his breakfast oatmeal with blueberries. Mark Knoblauch
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