Ripe is a great cookbook. The recipes and musings tucked inside are an ode to the fruit grown in Nigel Slater’s London garden, similar to the way its companion volume, Tender, glorified the vegetables cultivated there. In respect to prose, Ripe is exquisite. At once literary, lyrical, and convivial, it's so enjoyable to read that it’s equally at home propped open in the kitchen and nestled amongst novels on the bedside table.
The book is organized into chapters by fruit, beginning with “Apples,” and landing nearly 600-pages later on “White Currants.” The recipes within each chapter are enticing and dependable and follow the seasons in a way that makes sense: winter fruits are braised slowly with game and sausages, while June strawberries are barely altered. For fall, a Cake of Roasted Hazelnuts, Muscovado, and Coffee tasted deeply, deliriously of all three. Jonathan Lovekin’s lush photographs are inspiring and complement Slater’s tone beautifully.
But Ripe adds up to much more than the sum of its parts. The book is also a teaching aid: learn a thousand peculiarly named variations of apples, or all about the diverse history of quince. Ripe guides the reader to better cooking through example.
As much as Slater prizes first-rate ingredients, his recipes are never fussy or overly precise. He encourages tinkering, leaving the door open to flexibility, substitutions, and derivations. (A Cake for Midsummer, heady with milk and ground almonds, became a Cake for Deep Winter when nutmeg-stewed pears were substituted for apricots and raspberries.) Slater’s intuitive approach to cooking helps the reader, in turn, become a more intuitive cook. And it is this attitude that ensures Ripe’s status as a nearly endless spring of knowledge and inspiration.
The Piglet—inspired by The Morning News' Tournament of Books—is where the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year face off in a NCAA-style bracketed tournament. Watch the action and weigh in on the results!