Eating for England by Nigel Slater has provided all the thrill of iconic British foodstuffs without any of the guilt. He fills 280 pages with his memories and thoughts on everything from barley water to Sarson's Vinegar, the Jammie Dodger to Victorian sandwiches. Being the perfect 'dip in and out of' book, it has been on my nightstand for the past couple of weeks. I've had to stifle some belly laughs when reading it at 6 am so as not to rouse Deacon or R from their slumber. Slater's description of Werther's Orginals as 'silly old bugger's sweets' and the 'Victor Meldrew of confectionery' was one such moment.
Before my last trip across the pond I asked a couple of delightful ex-pats who visit the library if there was anything I could bring back for them. They swooned over the thought of enjoying a M&S Rich Tea biscuit with their cuppa once again. When I got back and handed them their bag of biscuits with some chocolate thrown in I beamed with the thought of them racing home, plugging in the kettle and enjoying a delicate dunk. A couple of weeks later I discovered a British sweet shop in town selling the very article! Alice and Bettina were thrilled not to have to wait until someone else ventured overseas for their biscuit fantasy to come true. According to a recent article in The Daily Telegraph, the sale of Rich Tea biscuits is on the decline as 'posh' treats become more popular. Slater writes that his favourite, the Abbey Crunch, has long been extinct, being replaced by the less than impressive Hob Nob so the worst can happen.
There were things revealed in this book which were better left unread. I was made ill by reading what it was that flavoured the meat at a St David's Day celebration with some Welsh friends. Faggots and peas were on the menu and now I know why nobody was forthcoming in the details about just what that was. To gag over something one has eaten over ten years ago takes some doing.
R and I are starting to sound like a couple of old codger's when we bemoan the pathetic comic strips that pass for a prize in boxes of caramel popcorn and that chocolate bars are shrinking. Our PC world has banned the marketing of candy cigarettes but pretending to blow smoke on a cold day after taking a drag on my candy hasn't turned me into a smoker. I digress.
The heartwarming, crave-inducing writing style of Slater had me flinging back the covers last weekend to pop down some toast and grab the jar of Robertson's Golden Shred from the fridge. I didn't even wait for the tea to steep before I started munching away. Perhaps it's a good thing that many of the sweet subjects in this book are not within easy reach for me. I have no idea what a Tunnock's Teacake, Jaffa Cake, Floral Gums or Midget Gems are but Slater makes me want to find out.