This is - or will be - be a database of Nigel Slater's much applauded Observer column. It will contain a list of each weekly and monthly column, by date, with a link to that article. But the main thrust of the site will be the index section. Each recipe will be listed in alphabetical order, catalogued by the principle ingredients. You know the sort of thing. An index. Christ, how much explanation does this really require?
Readers of my blog will know that I have long admired Nigel Slater's writing. It is my contention that Nigel Slater is possibly one of the greatest living writers. Perhaps he does not have the breadth of vocabulary of, say, Thomas Pynchon or David Foster Wallace, but what he does have is an unfailing enthusiasm for his subject matter, and an uncanny ability to get the mouth's juices running through his evocative prose. This ability of his is widely acknowledged, but if you need any further proof turn to his descriptions of a steak supper in Appetite, and you will need no further convincing.
The full version of my argument that Nigel Slater could be considered one of the truly great post-modernists would take quite a lot of explaining, which I will save for another time, but a short version might acknowledge the similarities between Nicholson Baker's delight in everyday objects and Nigel Slater's enthusiasm for the potato. It's a question of defamiliarisation. Great art has an ability to make you rethink your world views, or in the case of Baker and Slater, it has the ability to make you look at things you have looked at hundreds of times before but to see them anew.
It might also be pertintent to acknowledge the importance of food. Not just at the basic nutritional/biological/survival level, but within the context of cultural identity. I am English, but I live in the United States, and like many people who live far from the lands they were brought up in, I have a tendancy to look to the foodstuff of my homeland with nostalgia. The stuff I miss most about England? Curries, pubs and blowing on a burning hot chip which I have mistakenly put in my mouth, whilst walking along the seafront. It is perhaps not surprising that the things we miss most when we are away from home are food-related, because more than books or music or art or probably even crap television programmes, food is - quite - literally - what makes us who we are. Food matters. Just as we have museums to preserve our past, and galleries to show off our art, so do we need recipes to teach us how to cook like our mothers (or preferably better). Its a way we have of understanding ourselves.
This was the short version.
At a more practical level, the reason I have decided to catalogue Nigel Slater's writings is because my memory is faulty, the 'Archive search' on the Guardian website is crap, and if you type Nigel Slater into Google you get several thousand results, making it practically impossible to find the recipe you want. On several occasions I have vaguely remembered a column that has spoken of, for example, various things to do with leftover chicken, but when I have turned to the internet to find the column again, the little blighter will not be found.. So the impulse behind this site is to make life easier for myself; to prevent that sort of thing happening again. If anyone else finds the service useful then excellent, I'm glad I've been of use, but it's basically a selfish endeavour.
From January '04 henceforth, or until I get bored with it.
The basic idea is that I will catalogue all future articles that appear in the Observer on Sunday, including the weekly column and any monthly writings in the food supplement.
The Guardian archive has old articles going back to April 2000. It is my intention, over the first year, to index the articles from the equivalent weeks of the previous three or four years, which means for twelve months four or five articles will be indexed each week, which I figure, is a manageable amount of work, though doubtless there will be times when I fall behing, for which I beg your pardon.