Nigel Slater changed my life. Or rather, his recipe for chicken wings with lemon and cracked black pepper did. I was once a shamefully unashamed fussy eater, who barely cooked or thought with any imagination about food, and I rarely even glanced at Slater’s cookery column in the Observer Magazine. But something about those glossy, sticky wings caught my eye – and my appetite – back in 2003. I followed the recipe myself and miraculously pulled out an identikit glossy sticky feast from the oven, the warmth and aroma showing me that extra magic that no Sunday supplement ever could. And I was converted: to cooking, to eating, and notably to Nigel. I followed his column avidly. I bought Real Fast Food and started to build a repertoire: penne with walnuts and gorgonzola, chicken breast with pesto and mozzarella, scallops with lime and coriander. Every recipe delivered what it promised and what I craved. It was easy; it was fun; it was delicious. And Nigel’s words guided me generously throughout. Despite my complete lack of expertise, he never talked down to me. He taught me to notice the changing sights and smells in my pan, and helped me to understand the consequences of however I was choosing to slice and chop ingredients. He coaxed me into making my own choices with his subtle suggestions: substitute the walnuts with pine nuts; try rosemary instead of thyme; if you’re daring, melt the cheese in the pan rather than under the grill. Never any pressure, just encouragement to follow my own senses.
I like Jon Ronson. I never realised quite how fascinating a person he is until his recent appearance on the Richard Herring Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (RHLSTP!)
After that interview I started following Ronson on Twitter, and yesterday he appeared on my timeline with a series of tweets that move from curiosity to despair in under a thousand characters:
“English & proud. If you are too, read this leaflet!” ENGLISH & PROUD is the largest text on a glossy fold of A4 currently being posted through letterboxes across the country. It’s a message from a right wing “political” party, compelling the public to show their pride on the 22nd of May by voting for the English Democrats, whoever the fuck they are. Sitting neatly alongside this urge for proud English behavior at the ballotbox is an emblem far more readily associated with the England football team than the European elections: the three lions. It’s no surprise, perhaps, as we head towards a World Cup, that English nationalists should try to cash in on the imagery of the national football team. But wherever did we get the notion that there’s any sense in being PROUD of your nationality? Your nationality relates to the circumstances in which you are born and raised; it’s about where you’re from and not what you’ve achieved. Back in August we didn’t expect Manuel Pellegrini to feel proud that he had the Premier League’s best squad and the most money available for adding to it; fair enough, perhaps, if he wants to feel proud that by the season his squad had accrued the most points.