In celebration of Nigel Slater’s Greenfeast: autumn, winter publishing this October, we asked some 4th Estate authors to write a few words about veg-minded living.
Bee Wilson, author of First Bite and The Way We Eat Now:
‘Nigel Slater has strong feelings about bowls, and he is not afraid to share them. Take porridge. Nigel has two wooden bowls made from ash, which he saves for his morning oats. ‘I feel like Goldilocks’, he writes, ‘even when they are used for a strawberry Bircher muesli’.
One of the many reasons I love Nigel Slater’s food writing is that he does not conceal the strength of emotions he feels about using this dish or this spoon, rather than that one. I used to think I was slightly freakish to feel so emotional about drinking my tea out of a particular mug or to insist that a dish of crumble tasted better in an oval rather than rectangular dish, because my husband did not see what difference it could make. Over the year’s Nigel’s writing about the relationship he has with the tools in his kitchen has made me feel less alone.
I was so happy to see that his latest quiet masterpiece, Greenfeast, starts with a love letter to bowls. ‘Bowls for soup and porridge, bowls for rice and pasta, bowls for pudding’. He explains that he increasingly eats food from a bowl more than from a plate, partly because he is comforted by ‘the holding of a bowl – more like cradling really’.
Nigel is not the only one who is using bowls as his default dish, judging from the cookware sections of department stores. The rise of ‘bowl food’ might sound like a trivial change in our lives – a mere trend or fashion. But I think it is something deeper than that. Cuisine and tableware have always evolved together. The rise of bowls has gone hand in hand with a seismic shift in the way that we approach cooking at home: from the meat and two veg of earlier generations to something more free form, thoughtful and vegetable-centred – exactly the kind of recipes to be found in Greenfeast, from a buttery dish of rice with broad beans and asparagus to a comforting noodle dish with coconut and shiitake. Goodbye, steak knives; hello, chopsticks, spoons and shallow bowls. As Nigel writes, the whole atmosphere of a meal changes when you serve someone dinner from ‘a selection of bowls and dishes’ rather than from a single individual plate ‘piled high’. Bowls matter. Change the vessel that holds the food and the whole meal starts to look different.’
Bee Wilson is the author of The Way We Eat Now: Strategies for Eating in a World of Change and First Bite: How We Learn To Eat. Both out now.
Greenfeast: autumn, winter by Nigel Slater is also out now.