Nigel Slater can claim this (and I’m inclined to agree with him) despite the fact that in the opening paragraph of this wonderful book he tells us of his mothers inability to make toast without burning it.
I have wanted to read ‘Toast’ for a very long time and it didn’t disappoint. I slightly wish however that I hadn’t watched the TV dramatisation before reading the book because I simply couldn’t get the image of Helena Bonham Carter as Nigel’s step mother out of my mind even though Joan in the book was a much chillier character. From early family life, the lost of his mother and the arrival of Joan to the death of his father and his first steps into official chef-dom we follow Nigel’s deep and enduring relationship with food and cooking. There is copious amounts of vomiting and farting and a lot of sexual discovery. Many ham salads and tins of fruit are consumed but as every word rings clear and true and is offered up with such warmth you cannot fail but be charmed.
To say I devoured this book is trite but so true. It is simply written but swallows you up in nostalgia, scents, flavours and family. The line that sums up the book for me is ‘even bad crumble is good’, for this gets to the essence of the love that Nigel beautifully portrays for a childhood and a family riddled with flaws and eccentricities. It was this family that gave him the love of sweets and chocolate but also forced him to eat eggs, this family that gave him far too short a time with a Mother not blessed in the culinary department and then a cold step-mother who excelled but could not or would not share. Every page is dripping with every food known to a child growing up in the 60’s and every highlight or low light of Nigel’s young life is punctuated by such rituals as salad cream served in a sauce-boat or walnut whips excavated with an adolescent tongue.
Read this book and see if you can resist the urge to knock up a victoria sponge or a lemon meringue pie!
Rating: 8 out of 10
Would I seek out another title by this author: yes