Aug 20, 2014

The Week Night Book Club: 'Eating for England' by Nigel Slater. A Rough Draft For 'Eating for Australia'.

If you haven't already read Nigel Slater's 'Eating for England', you're in for a treat.  It's one of those perfect winter reads.

The inspiration for 'Eating' came as Slater when he was asked by the American press about what defines the British attitude to food.  He recalls struggling to find an eloquent answer but the reward for that struggle to us, his readers, is 'Eating' - a collection of short essays, lists and memoirs about food in Britain.  The past, the present and the future.  He liberally references the celebrity chefs and cooks of our time and lauds them for their positive influence on the modern culinary identity of his beloved country.  Those whom he finds less inspiring are left anonymous but his word caricatures of them leave their identities blindingly obvious.

Some of my favourite essays explore Slater's fond memories of childhood snacks and cakes that have such a powerful emotive allure as much for the personal context they hold in his life as for their taste on the tongue.  Toblerone, the various biscuits in variety packs.... don't we all have fond (and not so fond) memories of the foods of our own childhoods?  'Eating' also gives us a glimpse into the various tribes of modern home cooks in Britain and their cousins are also at large in Australia, I suspect.

I found 'Toast', Slater's other biographical work a little confronting and difficult to read at times due to Slater's observations of life with his stepmother after the death of his mother but 'Eating' was deliciously warm and comforting from the first chapter to the last.

Do you think that one day (soon, I hope) one of our own prominent food writers will write 'Eating for Australia'?  The stories they could tell.  Until the real food writers of Australia release 'Eating for Australia', here are some of my favourite food memories to start the ball rolling.

How NICE biscuits seem to taste of coconut and how you can hardly taste the sugar densely baked into the top?  And how NICE biscuits grow on you with age.

The evolution of our desserts from honest apple crumbles and pavlovas to decadent, glossy quadruple chocolate extravaganzas of cake, mousse and ganache?  And you don't just go out to eat these delicacies either.  Everyone (except myself) seems more than able to whip them up at home thanks to Masterchef and Adriano Zumbo's cook book and cake mix.

The phenomenon of Hot Cross buns being available in supermarkets earlier and earlier each year. Not so long ago, January 2 seemed early for me.  Now it's pretty standard to seem them stocked around December 24.... 

How Mi Goreng is the default dinner option for so many of us when calling for home delivery seems a bit too much effort.

My favourite lunch was and always will be sushi, green tea and some fruit.  Interestingly, I much prefer the sushi I find in Australia than the real deal I found in Japan.  It seems to be one of those foods that has adapted itself to local palates.

Chocolate. So many chocolate coated happy food memories.  The mass produced stuff we now get from all over the world.


The artisan products from the chic chocolate boutiques dotted around the country.

The chocolate bars we love from overseas for reasons including their unique flavours and the fact that they're only readily available on holidays which makes them stash worthy when you get home and unpack your luggage.

And last, but not least, our obsession with limited edition Tim Tam flavours.  I'm a sucker for new release Tim Tams but somehow always end up feeling a little underwhelmed after eating them.

Like Nigel Slater, buttered white toast is my ultimate comfort food.

Especially when served with a bowl of homemade chicken soup.  Ever since I realised just how easy it is to make most of my favourite soups, I've said no to tinned and packet soups.  Except for French Onion soup mix from which you know I can make approximately 5219 different dishes from.

Have you read 'Eating for England'?

What are your 'Eating for Australia' memories?  Let's crowdsource this.


  1. My earrings memories are somewhat 'ironic'. Potatoes, frozen beans, frozen steaks in a pan (because they weren't taken out of the freezer...) not much else. Biscuits on a RARE occasion, never cream filled. Guess what??? I teach cooking...I know. I have my BEd and Dip Hospitality Management. A colleague was said I was an example of a 'reaction' to my upbringing. I love the way you eat, you never miss out but I think you just eat the right amount of things. I have had to BAN those peanut butter Tim Tams!!!OMG they were like a drug!!

    1. I don't know how early became earrings!!!

    2. Thank you for your lovely comment, Flora. I'm having autocorrect issues too..

      SSG xxx

  2. Sausage in white bread (has to be mass produced but new and soft, sausage needs to be cheap beef), fried onion, tomato sauce.
    Curried sausages.
    Spaggy Bol
    Chocolate teddy bear biscuits
    Potato cakes
    Cadbury fruit n nut
    Toasty cheese sammiches dipped into tomato soup.
    Roast lamb.
    Jelly slice
    Hedgehog slice

    That enough?

    1. That's a great list, C!

      Reckon we've got the book stitched up between us.

      SSG xxx

    2. Can you please add a footnote to your book that those who had parents from Greece ate:
      whole lemon & oregano lamb on the spit at Christmas and Easter & any other reason to celebrate with friends and family- the suburb where I grew up still smells divine on warm summer days as there is usually 1 lamb on the spit per block;
      Spanakopita - I'm still trying to make my own perfect pastry and one day I'll get it!
      Faki ( yes it sounds as bad as it looks otherwise known as lentil soup)
      Fasoulatha ( white bean soup - we grew up hating it until I saw that Yanni Kyritsis had it on his menu for $20 per bowl - it is a basic peasant soup but so nutritious - my kids love it thankfully as they love Faki and they love telling their friends they eat "Faki"
      Pastitso - probably early form of greek lasagne
      Dolmades or stuffed vine leaves
      Yemista or stuffed tomatoes
      Keftedes or meatballs
      Whole BBQ'd fish
      Octopus in red wine and tomato
      Avgolemono or chicken noodle soup with lemon and egg beaten into it;
      Fasoulakia - green bean and vegetable casserole
      Steamed Horta - greens
      And I can't forget souvlakia - lamb, beef or chicken skewers BBQ'd
      Desserts - kourambiedes, almond shortbread
      Semolina cake

      These are my childhood foods and the good thing is whilst I'm not great at cooking a lot of them, our kids and I have decided we will master them even if my mum is no longer with us to teach us how to cook them. Tomorrow, we are making yemista or stuffed tomatoes as Coles had aussie tomatoes for $2 per kilo! Wish us luck.
      Den xx.

  3. I always find it so interesting to see how different people's comfort food lists are! They always show cultural differences, as well as being of their era…
    My list includes:
    Cheesy Macaroni
    Chocolate cake - my Mum's recipe
    Choc Chip Biscuits - same
    Roast leg of lamb with onion and mushroom gravy and loads of roast veg
    Crumble top pudding
    Lemon Delicious pudding
    Now I read this list it's very sweet centric!
    I also used to love cheese Twisties. My mum used to send packets to me in the post when I lived in London, but I rarely eat them now! x

  4. I do enjoy nice biscuits. Also agree with you on Tim Tams-no matter the flavour, the original remains my favourite. Agree with Cilla re sausages on bread -went to Bunnings today and was disappointed that there was no sausage.


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