Tender: A Cook And His Vegetable Patch Cookbook By Nigel Slater

Nigel Slater gives voice to the garden

It could be considered cavalier to call a cookbook "epic." The word, typically yoked to stories of entire bloodlines, enduring journeys or war, seems somewhat at odds with a book about supper and gardening.

But to call Nigel Slater's new book, Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch, anything less would fail to acknowledge its importance. In nearly 700 pages, the tome gives due diligence to the planting, growing, cooking and eating of nearly 30 vegetables. It is the Joy of Cooking for the age of the farmers' market.

Tender is hardly a dry how-to manual, however. Slater, who practically invented the seasonal-ingredient beat as a columnist for The Observer, has perfected the art of personable but informative prose. His weekly posts read like wandering diary entries, as he rhapsodizes about cucumbers and tomatoes the way that others might gush about their lovers.

Slater's book, which was released to American audiences yesterday, follows suit. The chapters are exhaustive but also intimate: Potatoes are allotted more than 50 pages, as the author offers details on varietals interwoven with paragraphs on the honesty and comfort provided by a "potato supper."

Whether you're a gardener, a cook or just an eater, Tender places a magnifying glass on the mettle–both physical and emotional–that makes up our meals.