Real Good Food – Nigel Slater



Real Good Food Nigel Slater

Published by Fourth Estate, 1995 (Paperback), 1993 (Hardback)
Cover design by React, photograph by Kevin Summers
Illustrations by Juliet Dallas Conte
Typeset by Type Technique, London W1

Real Good Food is a book aimed at the home cook with simple, clear recipes and enlightening commentaries by the author. It is Nigel Slater’s fourth book, published in 1995 when he was food editor of the Observer and cookery writer of the year. Visually, the book presents mixed messages: on the cover you have the contrast of the burnt, rough and ready food and the formality of the centrally alligned uppercase sans-serif type; inside there is a contrast between the informality of some elements - the illustrations, the ranged left lists of ingredients, the use of similar but different typefaces - and the symmetrical, justified formal aspects of other typographic elements. The overall effect, I would argue, is friendly but with a hint of authority suggesting that, at this stage in his career, Nigel Slater understood what kind of image he wanted to cultivate through his cooking (relaxed, friendly, simple and easy) but, as he was not a household name, he still needed to develop a sense of trust in the reader hence the authoritative elements of the design.

Front cover
The cover shows a photograph, by Kevin Summers, of a close-up of roasted butternut squash. The photograph is shown at full bleed with a narrow black strip at the bottom that contains the author’s name in a red uppercase serif typeface. The title of the book, in uppercase serif, is printed over the top of the photograph in white and is embossed. A strapline at the foot of the page, under the author’s name states ‘cookery writer of the year’.

The photograph shows the squash burnt around the edges, on a baking tray, with burnt spices and shiny with olive oil. The photograph reinforces the words ‘real food’ by presenting food that is the opposite of processed food and, in its simplicity, positions the book in the domestic sphere rather than the sophisticated food one might find prepared in a restaurant.

The dominant element on the cover is the photograph of the squash and the title of the book; the author’s name is third in the hierarchy with the strapline being the least dominant element. The dominant colours are warm yellows and browns and rich blacks.


Inside Pages
The book is 19 cm by 21 cm and is printed black on white matt coated paper which comes as a surprise after the richness of the cover. The layout is based on a simple two-column grid: sentence case Perpetua bold is used for headings which are contained a tinted text box; Baskerville (?) is used for the body text, uppercase Perpetua regular is used for chapter headings. The book contains no photographs and is illustrated with black and white reproductions of etchings of food. Chapter headings are aligned centrally on the page creating a formal, authoritative sense of symmetry which is slightly at odds with the ranged left recipe titles, ingredient lists and the playful placing of the illustrations.

Each chapter of the book contains several elements (in order of dominance): A chapter heading alligned centrally in uppercase, letterspaced regular Perpetua in a grey text box; A commentary set in justified Garamond at a slightly larger size than the recipes with drop caps; Recipes -title set in Perpetua bold, method set justified in Garamond, ingredients set ranged left in smaller Perpetua bold and indented very slightly rom the left margin; Illustrations of varying sizes arranged playfully within the text; Running heads aligned centrally, set in a smaller version of the chapter headings; Pagination is at the foot of the page and is aligned centrally, set in a smaller version of the chapter headings.

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