‘Tender’ was ostensibly about Nigel Slater’s growing development as a vegetable gardener, but was really a celebration of the heady pleasures of consuming your home-grown produce. ‘Tender II’ is exactly the same format, except his time he’s devoted his energies to fruit.
The most obvious difference to ‘Tender I’ is that a garden in Islington is not the best climate for growing figs or apricots.
Yet although these foreign fruits are covered, the bulk of the book concentrates on the fruits that thrive in the UK – apples, blackberries, strawberries, pears, rhubarb, gooseberries, plus lesser used produce such as sloes and medlars.
If you like Slater’s food writing you’ll know what to expect, and here you get lashings of it. He’s evocative about food and cooking in a sensual, almost vulgar way, yet manages to combine this with the inspirational and the informative.
As a food writer, his pace and turn of phrase are exemplary. He’s one of the greatest ever British food writers – and is on top form.
On the plant husbandry Slater’s not so strong, but at least he doesn’t make any pretence to be a horticulturalist. For the urban gardener who likes to dabble, this book is pitched just right.
As with ‘Tender I’ and his accompanying photography in The Observer, Jonathan Lovekin’s pictures are not only mouthwatering, but also matches the tone and mood of Slater’s writing perfectly. And with more than 1,200 pages, there’s plenty in this book to keep you reading and relishing the pages into the long autumn nights.
Guy Dimond, Time Out London issue 2097: October 28-November 3 2010