Nick Frost’s latest book begins with a recipe for beef stroganoff written in his late mother’s handwriting. This memory is juxtaposed with his father’s signature Sunday lunch, complete with his unique method of making gravy using McEwan’s Export. The book also includes his Welsh aunt’s version of cawl soup, a dish he now prepares for his own children. Another notable dish is his famous “pies in a bowl”, a staple during his time living with his lifelong friend and collaborator, Simon Pegg. Although cooking has always been a form of therapy for Frost, it wasn’t until a publisher approached him to write a cookbook that he realized the story of his life was reflected in the approximately 300 dishes he could create. Frost’s childhood was tumultuous due to his father’s bankruptcy and his mother’s struggle with alcoholism, but the recipes serve as a positive reminder of his memories of them.
The current age of the actor is 51, and he has previously discussed similar experiences in his 2015 memoir titled “Truths, Half Truths and Little White Lies”. The book recounts his tumultuous life before achieving success with the films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, where he collaborated with Pegg and gained a cult following before becoming well-known in Hollywood. The memoir concludes with his breakthrough role on the TV sitcom Spaced, but at the time, he squandered his earnings of nine thousand dollars on alcohol and drugs. In his latest memoir, he reflects on his journey as a father, his first marriage, and his current long-term relationship, ultimately providing a more stable and satisfying ending.
Frost moves easily between fantastic comedy and blunt reality. “When I’m writing I’m always trying to be honest,” he says. “A lot of people after reading the first book approached me to say: ‘Hey, I really appreciate you talking about, you know, mothers and addiction and grief.’ I felt very exposed – but there was that vibe of wanting my kids to know about how we got to where we are. This book was a similar thing. Plus you can learn how to make a good omelette.”
He is sharing with me the history of this place, located in the restaurant connected to Petersham Nurseries in south-west London. It is a family-run business, owned by the Boglione family since 2002. Frost has been living in nearby Richmond for over 10 years and this restaurant is a popular choice for special occasions. When we meet, he has just returned from a six-week filming trip in Finland. Sitting at a corner table in the bustling glasshouse, he expresses his joy at being back among people and having a menu in front of him. He mentions that the food in Finland was decent, but it often felt lonely. He describes driving through vast forests for 20 minutes to reach a stunning lakeside house that only serves homemade cinnamon buns and coffee, before driving back again.
The recent film was the final installment of a series of six that he has produced since the lockdown, but none have been released yet. The cookbook was originally a way to pass time during his busy schedule. Frost mentions that it was food, by chance, that sparked his interest in the entertainment industry. He left school at 16 without any qualifications in order to support his parents. At 21, he found work at the Mexican restaurant Chiquito’s on London’s North Circular, first as a waiter and then as a cook. It was at this restaurant that he met Simon Pegg, whose girlfriend also worked there at the time. Pegg and Frost later became roommates (and even shared a bed for a short period in a comedic manner similar to Morecambe and Wise), eventually transitioning their relationship into the successful television show Spaced and then into surreal film comedies, such as the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. The question that Frost is frequently asked is what their next project will be.
“We communicate frequently,” he states. “We will be attending the London film festival and prior to that, a comic convention in Liverpool. We’re excited about spending two days together! I believe one of the highlights of our films is the portrayal of our growth as individuals. The characters have become more mature and intricate. So even if it’s another decade, that aspect will still be present.”
The challenges I have faced in my personal life have involved battling with addiction and substance abuse. During this journey, I was diagnosed with several forms of neurodivergence, including ADHD, OCD, PTSD, dyslexia, anxiety disorders, and a heightened state of alertness.
“I was 47 years old,” he states when discussing his discovery. “Once I began researching it, everything about my behavior started to make sense. I attempted to take medication for the first few years, but it was challenging for the addict in me to know that I had essentially a bottle of methamphetamine in my possession. I would often think about what would happen if I took 10 of them at once. However, after managing and coping with it on my own for 47 years, I decided to continue doing that.”
According to him, he has reached a point where he can often find humor in his neuroses, even if he cannot overcome them. As an example, he recalls a time when he was staying at a hotel in Finland. On the first day, he went down for breakfast and his ADHD was satisfied with the juice machine, coffee, and little pancakes with strawberry jam. However, two weeks later, when he went down for breakfast, everything had changed. Instead of pancakes, there was carrot cake, which he believed was more suitable for teatime. He stood in the middle of the room for 10 minutes, staring and trying to understand why the change had been made. Even after getting food on his plate, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. To someone with ADHD, this may not seem strange at all.
Frost had always recognized his obsessive behaviors, such as eating the same lunch every day, but they intensified in his forties. He believes this may have been due to a sense of loneliness after losing his family and seeing his friends settle down and start families of their own. This led him to isolate himself and become increasingly mentally unwell.
He found solace by spending time in the kitchen. In his book, he describes his sleepless nights spent making focaccia and using chopping as a form of release. He explains that it was acceptable to spend hours in the kitchen alone because the end result was a delicious creation. With a large dining table and frequent company, he enjoys cooking for others on a daily basis when he’s not working.
As he strives to control the negative aspects of his character, the most challenging struggle has been with overeating. He shares that in the previous year, he has successfully shed around 100 pounds by gradually eliminating the habits that would lead him to “secretly indulge in eating the top layer of a wedding cake or similar things.”
He is aware of the beginning. “At the age of 51, I can easily recall being an 8-year-old – in the midst of my parents arguing or both passed out drunk on the sofa – sneaking to the fridge and enjoying that sense of secrecy, like James Bond. I continued to do that. I will always indulge in a cinnamon bun. However, I have put an end to my covert eating.”
We’ve cleared our plates by now and it’s time for him to collect his youngest son from nursery. One of the themes of his book, I suggest, is his inability to take any pleasure in his success, partly for fear it is all going to explode. Is he getting any better at that?
“I find it amusing,” he remarks. “If you were to enter my home, you wouldn’t be able to guess my profession. There are no keepsakes. However, I have recently allowed myself to contemplate: ‘You have authored two books, you have three wonderful children, and you have produced some films.'” And, as he adds, “no one instructed me on how to achieve any of that” – it is a formula he devised on his own.
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