Nigel Slater

12 July 2019

Chef and writer Nigel Slater tells Saga about his childhood and his child-like sense of humour...

Did you have a pet when you were a boy?

I’m a cat man, these days, but we used to have a huge Golden Retriever. A proper family dog. He disappeared one day, and I got very upset about it. My parents told me he’d gone away on holiday, but I found out many years later that he’d had an accident. Looking back, I’m glad they never told me.

What makes you laugh?

I struggle a bit with humour. You see… most bits of me have matured, except my sense of humour. I still find farts funny. My aunt lived to 100 and I can remember her farting and laughing about it on her 100th birthday. There you go. They were probably laughing at farts thousands of years ago, and we’re still laughing about them today. A fart is timeless.

What did your parents teach you?

My father… he taught me that success doesn’t fall into your lap. He’d come from a background where they had very little money and he made something of himself. But he worked hard for that. My mother taught me the value of kindness. She taught me that caring about people makes you feel good, too.

Could you run a mile?

Yes. I have a personal trainer and go to the gym four times a week. Not because I’m obsessed with fitness, I might add. Going to the gym is the one time that I can switch off. Even though I’m exercising, I feel like I’m recharging my batteries.

Car or train?

I can drive, but I haven’t driven since I was a teenager. Actually, that’s a lie. I had to drive a combine harvester for a programme I did. I sat behind the wheel of this monster, thinking, ‘Can I still drive?’ I used to love watching the wheat harvest when I was a boy. So slow and graceful. Not sure I’d want to drive on today’s roads, though. Too much anger.

There’s a time machine at your disposal. Would you like to go back and see how they put together a dinner for Henry VIII or Julius Caesar?

Not interested. I love the food of the moment and I enjoy living in the moment. Food has never been more exciting or inclusive. Look at how many people are cooking. You can keep your time machine, thank you very much!

What’s the longest time you’ve spent on a recipe?

Making ‘proper’ Christmas Pud. Chopping all those fruits… that’s an hour or two. Four hours steaming it. Then, because you make it in advance, it needs to be reheated on the day. Christmas Pudding is like life. It rewards you for effort. The more you put in, the more you get out.

Where do your recipes come from? Do they arrive in the middle of the night? Do you put them together scientifically?

I’ve never been one of those people who can sit down and say, ‘I’m going to create a spectacular dish, today’. This isn’t much of an answer, but they just seem to appear in my head. I can be in the shower or talking to somebody on the phone and… it’s there.

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