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Toast by Nigel Slater

Toast (2003)

by Nigel Slater

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1,057427,948 (3.69)50
Recently added byALC1, private library, europhile, clublist, mandra, UWRC, ian.attwood, AllisonOseth, 2manybooksUK, VivienneR
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    Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Coming of age with memories related to food. Bittersweet. Funny. Joyful!
  2. 00
    Paperboy by Christopher Fowler (nessreader)
    nessreader: both use obsolescent brand names to evoke the past, describe a circumscribed and very english childhood, and make comedy out of pain.

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Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
A series of short personal memories, mostly food related. Some are sweet, as Slater remembers his mother's awful cooking with fondness, and after her death, his father's attempts to feed his son and comfort him. Some memories are steeped in anger or anxiety, especially when a new woman entered his father's life, and some food memories deal with his happiness upon starting his culinary career.
Very intimate and very English, I enjoyed this nearly as much as my previous read from the author, Eating for England. ( )
  mstrust | Feb 26, 2015 |
Would of liked it more if the author had not undermined himself at times. Obviously I feel pretty sorry for him and I respect the humour with which he distances himself from what was an awful childhood on the whole, but it was rather repetitive and the sum of the parts did not add up to anything special - and I think handled better it might have. But it whiled away some long train journeys fairly pleasantly, even given the uncomfortable nature of much of it. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jun 17, 2014 |
This memoir is both an amusing and sad commentary on Nigel Slater’s childhood. He weaves food into all parts of the book. Each chapter begins with a food item such as toast, Spaghetti Bolognese, Sherry Trifle, Radishes, Fried Eggs…….you get the idea.

In the beginning, Nigel’s very first reference to toast (ought I to have capitalized that?) is also in the first sentence of the book.

“My mother is scraping a piece of burned toast out of the kitchen window, a crease of annoyance across her forehead…”

It’s very clear how much he loved his mother. She couldn’t cook very well and regarded it as more of an obligation instead of a labor of love. Recently I watched the movie Toast and that’s what inspired me to read the book. Books are always more detailed and well…better than the movies which are derived from them. What is true in both movie and book is his dislike of his step mother. In the movie she is played as a schemer who tolerated Nigel because she had to. If she wanted to marry Nigel’s father, Joan had best treat Nigel well.

It seemed an antagonistic relationship but let’s remember, this was written by a man who culled childhood memories which may be distorted. Perception is reality though and it seems his reality was a sad coasting along through childhood, feeling as if he were in the way, missing his mother who was a great buffer for his father’s coldness.

After his mother’s death so many of the short chapters start with comparisons of life before and after his mother died.

“I am not sure the cooking is any worse since Mum died. But it isn’t any better either.”

The chapter titled Cheese-and-Onion Crisps he writes, “On Saturdays Dad used to buy a crab and we would spend much of the afternoon taking it to pieces…..After Mum died we never had crab again, nor any of Dad’s favorite things like tripe and onions and liver…”

“For the first six months after Mum died I lived on cheese-and-onion crisps and chocolate marshmallow teacakes…”

Then Mrs. Potter appeared in their lives to clean house. Nigel writes about coming home and finding her wearing his mother’s apron. Obviously that didn’t sit well. She eventually becomes a fixture in the Slater’s lives; his father buys a home in the country and ultimately marries her.

In very few instances, he is surprisingly kinder in his portrayal of his step mother. Her character (in this memoir) helped him to stay out of trouble with his father in several instances. One short chapter even stated he realized she was just as lonely as he was living on a country property, away from everyone and town.

My overall take on this memoir is it was certainly honest and explored Nigel’s hunger for acceptance, love, sex and food. The book explains other family relationships (left out in the movie) such as having a brother 15 years his senior and an older adoptive brother as well. Mrs. Potter, the infamous stepmother, had three daughters which are hardly noted in the movie. Her abandoning them to live with Nigel’s father caused a rift (as may be imagined) and only one daughter evidently stayed in touch with her.

Quotes I liked:

“Cake holds a family together. I really believed it did. My father was a different man when there was cake in the house….if he had a plate of cake in his hand I knew that I could climb up onto his lap.”

“You can’t smell a hug. You can’t hear a cuddle. But if you could, I reckon it would smell and sound of warm bread-and-butter pudding.”

One food scene that stood out for me was young Nigel cooking a haddock dinner for his father. His father was always home by 6:30 but for whatever reason, he was late. The fish burned as Nigel was trying to keep it warm. When his father arrived home Nigel was in tears over the dinner but his father, uncharacteristically kind, sat down and ate it, pronounced it “fine, very good…just the way I like it.”
It was a warm moment between a 9 year old trying very hard to please a father who was uncomfortable with his young son.

So, here is my inspired dish – Grilled fish with a smear of butter. See the photos and recipe at www.novelmeals.wordpress.com ( )
1 vote SquirrelHead | Oct 23, 2013 |
I thought this book was very entertaining. I wish I was more familiar with the British brands and words to relate a bit better. I found it to be quite amusing and I can relate to how certain foods/smells trigger memories rather they be bad or good. ( )
  DeniseToby | Oct 9, 2013 |
While I enjoyed the food part of this memoir, I didn't like the tone. I came to it with no prior knowledge of who Slater is, I picked it up primarily because I needed an audio book, my library had this available, and it was a memoir.

Slater lost his mum early on, his brother was much older and left home soon after, which left Slater alone with his dad for awhile. Then his dad finds a new woman with whom to share his life, and his son is resentful and angry and bitter about this still. She admittedly sounds like no prize at all, though she's an above-average cook.

I think this would have worked much better for me if I had read the print version, or if it had been narrated by someone other than the author. He was unable to keep a whiny, aggrieved tone out of his voice when recounting the tribulations of his adolescence. I was unable to keep from rolling my eyes when he complained that no teenaged boys (save him) were ever required to do such onerous chores as tidying their rooms, picking clothes up from the floor & etc. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
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For Digger, Magrath and Poppy

with love

In memory of Elvie 1902-2002
First words
My mother is scraping a piece of burned toast out of the kitchen window, a crease of annoyance across her forehead.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143057146, Audio CD)

‘My mother is scraping a piece of burned toast out of the kitchen window, a crease of annoyance across her forehead. This is not an occasional occurrence. My mother burns the toast as surely as the sun rises each morning.’‘Toast’ is Nigel Slater’s award-winning biography of a childhood remembered through food. Whether recalling his mother’s surprisingly good rice pudding, his father’s bold foray into spaghetti and his dreaded Boxing Day stew, or such culinary highlights as Arctic Roll and Grilled Grapefruit (then considered something of a status symbol in Wolverhampton), this remarkable memoir vividly recreates daily life in 1960s suburban England.Likes and dislikes, aversions and sweet-toothed weaknesses form a fascinating backdrop to Nigel Slater’s incredibly moving and deliciously evocative portrait of childhood, adolescence and sexual awakening.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:26 -0400)

This is Nigel Slater's truly extraordinary story of his childhood remembered through food. Nigel's likes and dislikes, aversions and sweet-toothed weaknesses form a fascinating and often amusing backdrop to this incredibly moving and evocative memoir of childhood, adolescence and sexual awakening.… (more)

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