I have hauled myself away from Etsy – where I’ve been looking at chainmail bras and swords – to write this post. I’ve lit a candle and put on Darkher’s gorgeous new song Lowly Weep in an attempt to focus my fluttering attention span. It’s getting somewhat ridiculous now, and it’s starting to worry me. My attention hasn’t been so easy to trick into inaction for a long time.
But I’m here to talk about books and about books I will talk.
NOTE: If you’re interested in reading this post in its entirety, you can find it on my Patreon.
It doesn’t matter that we’re past Christmas. This book was so influential I would feel dreadful if I didn’t mention it. And, if you’re anything like me, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is when you read about Yuletide. It’s an enthralling subject to delve into.
Slater calls himself a ‘cook who writes,’ and gods, he can write. He can really write. Although I don’t spend much time in the kitchen AT ALL (I hope that’ll change when my status changes from ‘single’ to ‘in a relationship’ because cooking with someone else is so rewarding), I can really appreciate decent food writing.
What felt special with The Christmas Chronicles was the love Slater also feels for the winter season. There were moments when I was reading that I’d whip my head up and down so fast in elated agreement with something I’d see stars.
‘As the season slides into winter – you can feel the heavy, sweet air of autumn turning crisp and clean with each passing dawn – there is the return of chestnuts and sweet potatoes, almonds in their shells, cream-fleshed parsnips, fat leeks and muscat grapes with their scent of sugary wine and honey. There are squashes shaped like acorns and others that resemble turbans to bake and stuff and beat into piles of fluffy mash; pomegranates – I love to see one or two cut in half on the display so we know whether we are buying jewels or pith – and proper big-as-your-hat apples for baking.’– The Christmas Chronicles, Nigel Slater
This book is the story of Slater’s love for everything that makes winter the most memorable season of them all – ‘the scent of fir and spruce, ghost stories read with a glass of sloe gin, and beeswax candles with shadows dancing on the ceiling.’
The Christmas Chronicles has breadth, going from 1 November to the end of January. While over 100 recipes are on offer in the book, I was more interested in the stories accompanying them. Slater’s style – he weaves folktales, myth and memoir amidst his recipes – is inviting, intimate and almost unrealistically cosy.