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Books: In Which Ben From MasterChef Explains THAT Amazing Walk-Out (and Reviews a Cookbook)

A Year of Good Eating: The Kitchen Diaries III by Nigel Slater, reviewed by Ben Sheehan.

I find myself at an odd point of life. Mid-to-late twenties, struggling to understand how I’m ever going to join the ludicrous Auckland property market. Pretty normal in that sense I guess, but I’m mostly at an odd point because I’ve come to a stage where I’ve realised I probably need to start figuring out what to do with the next 60-odd years.

The key point that kicked off that “what am I doing with my future” episode was being locked in a house for six weeks with a bunch of strangers while being filmed every five or six days. Being on the MasterChef show taught me that I simply didn’t want to devote my career to something I regarded as a hobby.

So I stood up in front of my mates Al, Josh and Mark, and told them I wasn’t particularly keen to keep cooking them dinner. And walked out.

ben-leaving

And why might you ask, did I not wish to continue down a life of Woman’s Day articles, unpaid restaurant internships and Scout featurettes?

I share with you a morsel from Nigel Slater’s latest book. He writes: ‘I worry that the competitive element currently prevalent in food and cooking is scaring people, particularly new cooks, away from getting stuck in… I can’t help thinking good food should be something we take in our stride, a life-enriching punctuation to our day, rather than something to be fetishised.’

He’s right on the money. Cooking is something to be cherished, enjoyed, and loved. I’ll continue trying to find that deposit some other way, thank you.

His book The Kitchen Diaries III is, you guessed it, the third book in the series of Slater’s semi-cookbook, semi-biographical journey through his year of cooking. The chronicle begins at 5am on January 1 with poppy seed crispbread. Don’t ask me how anyone can function on New Year’s Day, but it quickly becomes apparent that my style of cooking – and food that I love for that matter – is akin to what gets prepped in Slater’s kitchen. Simple yet elegant, without being showy in the slightest.

The book contains a vast array of wonderful, simple and straightforward recipes. And not one starts with ‘finely dice an onion…’ Slow-roasted beef short ribs with honey, anise and creamed cauliflower; smoked mackerel fishcakes; and duck, prunes and red cabbage all got a good test in my kitchen.

I highly recommend Kitchen Diaries III. I found it a joyous read, just for the recipes alone. It’s firmly cemented itself a place on my kitchen bookshelf in my lovely (rented) Auckland property.


A Year of Good Eating: The Kitchen Diaries III (Harper Collins, $44.95) by Nigel Slater is available at Unity Books.

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