I do not want anyone to think I am obsessed with Michael Pollan, even though it does seem he is all I blog about lately. I can get in a groove and get stuck there for a while. I will move out of the Pollan groove presently. And I will make you scroll all the way down to the end of the post for the Pollan content, but I am not above invoking him to draw readership….
Nigel Slater, on the other hand, is a writer you should know about if you do not already. Rabelais had been open for a good three or four months with a copy of The Kitchen Diaries on our shelves before we made an acquaintance with Nigel Slater. If you have come in to the store anytime since then and asked us about some of our favorite books you will have heard the above mentioned title more than a few times. Slater is a Brit who has a column in The Observer and a stack of truly magnificent cookbooks to his name. He calls himself a cook, not a chef, and that is who he writes for. I suppose you could call his metier comfort food, in fact others (Nigella Lawson and Tamasin Day-Lewis) have. Jamie Oliver calls him a genius. His comfort food is not the American iteration of meatloaf and macaroni and cheese but rather Don’s favorite roast chicken with cheese mashed potatoes and garlic gravy. Or my favorite sweet and sticky chicken wings. When describing Nigel Slaters food I use words like authentic and organic (but with a lower case ‘o’). His approach to food is simple, straightforward and approachable without being dumb or using convenience food short cuts. His latest US publication is a perfect example. Real Fast Food is luckily billed below his name, as I have profound reservations about any food book with the words Fast and Food adjacent to one another. However you must see past the title of this book which was originally published in the UK in 1995. Then you will find the beauty in it’s approach to feeding yourself and your loved ones. There is a good reason why there are over one million copies of this book in print, and why it was finally published here in the States.
In fact one might say there are 350 reasons.
The subtitle reads 350 recipes ready-to-eat in 30 minutes, but we are not talking tear-open-pouch-pour-into-bowl-place-in-microwave-press-start recipes here. No, here we find Lamb Chops with Flageolet beans and Cilantro-Parsley sauce made with canned beans and shoulder or blade lamb chops. Here we find Whole Wheat pasta with Sausages, Mustard and Caramelized Onions, Chicken with Orange and Black Olives, Mushrooms on Toast and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon. These are all recipes I can make when we get home from a long day talking about and selling books about food, and hold my head up high. I love cookbooks, but must confess that I rarely follow any recipes all the way through. I use written recipes more as suggestions. When I read Nigel Slater I feel in my element. If one needs a precise directional recipe you will find them here, but if you are looking for the outline with guidance you will be in heaven. Especially because there are so many suggestions. Slater is chock full of inspiration, his voice is so enamored of his subject you can hardly help running to the kitchen to whip something up. Nigel Slater and Michael Pollan have totally liberated the way I cook in the past year. I never buy any food my Grandmother wouldn’t recognize and I get my inspiration for ways to prepare it from Slater.
Which brings me to Michael Pollan. He was in Maine last week to speak at Bates College. We drove up to Lewiston early and were comfortably seated to watch the hordes crush in to the College Chapel. Some poor souls actually got turned away. This was a view before they had to clear the aisles.
Pollan is an engaging speaker, if you have a chance to go hear him I encourage you to do so. This night was no exception. I will not go on about what he said, other than to say that he touched on all those issues that I think are so very important to all of us right now. But what I will share with you here is an opportunity I had to combine two of my great interests: food politics and knitting. Below is an image I took of Michael Pollan holding a sock I was still knitting that night. He was truly graceful about my bizarre request but after I jabbered on a bit seemed to see my crooked logic about knitters being comparable to local foodies in their desire to work with their hands and have direct contact with their materials. It seems obvious to me, but then I like to think all my obsessions interrelate. So without further adieu, herewith Michael Pollan with sock.
I thank this gracious and remarkable individual for his forbearance.