6th January 1990
Early in 1990, and quite out of the blue, I received a letter from Louise Haines, then commissioning editor at the publishers Michael Joseph, asking me if I had ever thought of writing a book. She had read a few pieces I had written for a food Amazon Uk Prada Bags magazine and seemed to think I ‘had a book in me’.
The publisher in question had a small but perfectly formed cookery list that included Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson. I was flattered but somewhat bemused that anyone could believe the writer of a small 500-word piece about apples to be capable of penning a 300-page book, let alone sit comfortably on such a list. I balanced the pros and cons, weighed the result against my total absence of confidence in myself and made my decision.
On the one hand I was already a published writer, albeit of only a few small pieces in a women’s magazine, on the other I was someone who knew he had fallen into it by nothing more than being in the right place at the right time. Add to that my somewhat challenged education – ‘Nigel seems to have struggled again this year’ – and perhaps more importantly, my habit of saying ‘I can’t’ rather than ‘I can’, and my reply almost wrote itself.
‘Dear Louise, thank you for your kind letter. Unfortunately, I find the idea of writing a book somewhat intimidating. If ever I change my mind I will be in touch.’ I took it to the postbox and assumed that would be the end of the matter.
I had left school early to earn a living after my father died, and had struggled through a catering course, which I subsequently failed. (I am not sure how anyone can fail a catering course but somehow I managed to.) There were no really high-profile chefs to inspire young people the way there are now. The only TV cook was the formidable Fanny Craddock and her long-suffering husband, Johnnie.
One of the surprises about looking for employment was that no one ever asked for any evidence of my qualifications, so I ended up bluffing my way through three years of apprenticeships at several very smart kitchens the length and breadth of the country. One minute I was in the Lake District, the next in Cornwall. Yet the whole cheffy thing never quite felt right, least of all working as part of a testosterone-fuelled team. Finally, and no doubt wisely eschewing posh cooking, I ended up cooking in a café in Oxford Street.
It was by sheer chance I had met up with Jenny Greene, a regular customer who was about to launch a food magazine and was looking for a recipe tester. I had some spare time on my hands and soon found myself testing her contributors’ recipes. Most were fine, but a few proved problematic and the magazine’s attitude was that if a professional cook (I use the term lightly) couldn’t get them to work pradasg, then what chance did an inexperienced reader have? She got me to put them right, and then, after a particularly impossible batch from the kitchen of a very famous name, she told me to come up with my own recipes, thus accidentally kick-starting my career in cookery writing.
Having assumed that declining Louise Haines’s offer would put an end to any idea of writing more than a few Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada Online Shopping magazine articles, I was surprised to find a second ‘Dear Nigel’ from her on my doormat. Would I like to have lunch near her office in Kensington? I wasn’t sure about this. But her point in seeing me was, she said, to discuss the ‘subject of cookery writing in general’ so Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada Shop Online there could be little harm in accepting. I had firm ideas about food writing and wouldn’t mind airing them to a willing ear. Truth was, I was also flattered beyond words and, with a complicated home life pretty much in tatters and a career at a standstill, I felt my ego, such as it was, could do with a little boosting.
It was at this point that another ‘Dear Nigel’ letter turned up. This time it came from the owner of the cafe where I was working. I did remember I had briefly mentioned that I would like to work full time as a cookery writer, but was still surprised to find his letter contained the ominous line, ‘I think I should just clarify the situation to you that you should now review your decision to find another job’. It took a while to understand I was actually being sacked. I decided it might be a good idea to meet Ms Haines after all.
We met at a little restaurant where the young chef, a certain Rowley Leigh, was just making a name for himself (and who later went on to be another of Louise’s small group of authors). A serving of roast pigeon and paper-thin apple tart later, I found myself saying goodbye to her on the pavement, her words ‘you’ll do it then?’ ringing in my ears.
I will never know how she talked me into it. We had both spent the lunch bemoaning our habit of buying Marks & Spencer’s ready-made meals on the way home from work. We agreed that, although delicious, they somehow tasted the same. We talked of how we felt we were missing out by not cooking something for ourselves.
‘The ridiculous thing is,’ Authentic Prada Gauffre said Louise between mouthfuls of lamb shank, ‘you could probably cook something from fresh ingredients in the time it takes to eat a supermarket lasagne.’ One of us muttered something about wanting not just ‘fast food’ but ‘real’ fast food. We both looked at one another. Real…. Fast….. Food. We rolled the words around in our mouths. ‘Sounds like the title of a book to me,’ said Louise. Fourteen years on, the outcome, my Authentic Prada Bags For Sale Philippines first book, has sold somewhere around a million copies.
The point of the book was simply to present a collection of ideas for something quick to make when you got in from work. The ingredients were the sort of stuff you could conceivably have in the house or could pick up from a half-decent late-opening shop. The methods were simple and geared as much toward the non-cook as to the short-of-time. It was, and still is, my belief that even the most inexperienced Are Prada Mens Shoes Good of cooks would be able to make themselves something nice to eat. None of the recipes included the use of many pans or specialist equipment, and there were no complicated methods.
This resulted in such simple ideas as mozzarella coated in breadcrumbs; pasta with garlic; cheese and thyme; chicken with pesto; and lamb grilled with mustard and lemon. In total, there were about 350 ideas and recipes for something to eat that took pretty much the same time as reheating a supermarket meal. As I said in the introduction: ‘Think of a piece of chicken brushed with herbs and lemon, peppery basil leaves stirred into mashed potato, a slice of pan-fried pork with fennel, or a plate of Muscat grapes and ripe figs: all this is fast food. Whether it is Elizabeth David’s immortal omelette and a glass of wine, a hot bacon sandwich when you return from the pub on a cold night, a plate of pasta with goat’s cheese and pungent thyme, there is nothing like real, fast, food.’
I will never forget Amazon Uk Prada Shoes the moment the finished book arrived by courier. Pulling the book from its jiffy bag, smelling its fresh ink, and rolling it over in my hands. The book that I had said I couldn’t write.
The first person to spot the book was Matthew Fort, Authentic Prada Handbags Online who reviewed it in the Guardian, then notices appeared in the Financial Times and in the Christmas round-ups. I needed a few copies to hand out to relatives and friends so I phoned Books for Cooks in Notting Hill (anonymously) to request a copy. Clarissa Dickson-Wright, then manager of the bookshop and yet to be discovered as a television presenter, boomed down the phone. Black Prada Eyeglass Case ‘Oh yes, wonderful little book. I’m so sorry, we have completely sold out, and the publishers are out of stock too. We just can’t get enough of them.’ And so it was that Real Fast Food went into the first of its 51 reprints. On Christmas Eve, the sales force were out in their vans personally Authentic Prada Bag For Sale Ph delivering boxes of it to the bookshops.
I’m still not sure why that little book struck such a chord. My guess is that Louise and I weren’t the only ones who wanted an alternative to the ubiquitous cook-chill supper. In 14 years it has never been out of print. It has now, along with its little sister Real Fast Puddings and the more internationally based The 30-Minute Cook, been issued in a new guise, with the help of Camilla Stoddart at Penguin and with charming new covers by Alice Tait.
Seven books later, Louise Haines is still my editor, though we long ago jumped publishers to Fourth Estate. It now takes me five years to put a cookbook together rather than one, and it seems to take us as long to decide on the typeface as it took to write the whole of Real Fast Puddings
Dear Louise, thank you for refusing to take no for an answer. For ignoring my in-built hesitance and for giving me the confidence to put pen to paper. And thank you for getting that first little book into people’s kitchens.
Nigel Slater’s Real Cooking, Real Fast Food, The 30-Minute Cook, and Real Fast Puddings have just been republished by Penguin (£8.99 and £12.99 each). We have 10 sets of the four books to give away free. To apply, send a postcard to N Jackson, marked ‘Nigel Slater books’, OFM, 119 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 5EJ. For terms and conditions go to www.observer.co.uk/foodmonthly