Ripe

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I used to gobble up as many new cookbooks as I could, for years. From the library, or from the bookstore where my husband is a bookseller. Eventually I grew fatigued, mostly because I couldn’t keep up, and besides, so many fell flat for me. Only a few have remained timeless, and this is one: Ripe, by English writer, gardener, and amateur cook, Nigel Slater.

Anyhow, Slater’s books, full of rich writing and real food and succulent photography from his kitchen garden, are all worth sinking into. Intimate and sincere, his writing will captivate you. And because he is admittedly a novice in the kitchen, with childlike curiosity, his books and recipes don’t intimidate, but sparkle with life and a sincerity we see too infrequently in the genre.

Their pleasures are brief, and yes, there is always a struggle to get there before the birds and squirrels, but it is hard to find a mulberry more exquisite than the one you have grown for yourself, a strawberry more sweet, or a fig more seductive.
— Nigel Slater

I pulled Ripe off the shelf just this week—again—because of an excited plot of rhubarb in the southeast corner of my garden. Slater’s Ripe is a fruit-fixated tome, a handsome book organized in alphabetical order, apples to white currants, and so many fruits in-between. Each fruit is esteemed into its own chapter where Slater lovingly essays about its personality, growth in the garden, noteworthy varieties, flavor pairings, besides a handful of varied recipes, many of which are fresh and inspiring.

In a few weeks, my sweet cherry tree and red currant bushes will also need Slater’s help. For now, I must decide between a sloe rhubarb, or a rhubarb cinnamon polenta cake. Or both, there is really so much rhubarb!