Toast – Nigel Slater

It is thanks to routing through other peoples shelves (I’m going to do a post on the joys of other people’s shelves and having a nosey next week) that I ended up reading a book that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise and really loved. The book in question was ‘Toast’ by Nigel Slater which had initially piqued my interest after the adaptation on the television over Christmas, which we recorded and then completely forgot to watch. I then forgot about how much I wanted to read the book (see that self hype thing again)… until I was having a nosey and my eyes happened to fall upon it and so I picked it up and absolutely loved it.

All I knew of Nigel Slater before I picked up ‘Toast’ was that he was a rather well known chef whose recipe books seem to be in every single member of my families houses. I’ve never watched his TV shows and really never been that interested in cookery books, other than maybe Nigella, though I like cooking. ‘Toast’ is Nigel Slater’s memories of childhood into adulthood all told through food. I imagined this might be recipes but I was wrong as in fact it’s snippets of memories with titles like ‘Christmas Cake,  ‘The Hostess Trolley’ and ‘Peach Melba’ (which I had forgotten once existed and instantly wanted) each with its own memories attached.

‘Toast’ really is quite a collection of memories as Nigel didn’t have the easiest or happiest of childhoods. His mother had health issues, his father wasn’t the most comforting or friendly of role models and of course there is the cleaner Mrs Poole who soon became the bane of Nigel’s life. It’s never a misery memoir though some of the book is very emotional it also often leaves you in hysterics. In some ways because of the humour I was reminded of Augusten Burroughs, only in this book the addictions are cook books and ingredients rather than drugs, the other thing that reminded me of Augusten Burroughs was the way slowly but surely Slater writes about his being gay, how he noticed it and coped with it in the 60’s and 70’s which again makes for a very heart felt and honest book.  

I knew I was going to be rather smitten with this book when I read the line in ‘Toast 1’ where Nigel writes ‘It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you.’ He is talking about his mother and how when they make it in just the right way you are ‘putty in their hands’. People who arrive as the book progresses are each almost given a flavour in addiction to their character and this works wonderfully. It also really evokes atmosphere and underlying tensions such as when he helps his Mum make the, at the time, novel delicacy of spaghetti for his father which none of them have tried and as soon as they add the parmesan ‘this cheese smells like sick’ is deemed as ‘off’ and its never talked of or mentioned again.

I loved Nigel Slater’s writing, it never felt pretentious or woe is me or anything other than a down to earth account of his childhood filled with both happiness and sadness. It’s a ‘real’ memoir if you know what I mean, there are dramas and trials but they are never melodramatic. I decided Nigel Slater and I would be firm friends when he discussed ‘Butterscotch Angel Delight’ my all time favourite too. This is someone who hasn’t had the easiest start in life who rather than complain about it looks back at it fondly and asks the reader to join in and do so too. This is my favourite book of the year so far. 10/10

I am hoping that any of you who are much more up on Nigel Slater and his writing than I am will please tell me there are more books he has written like this as I would really like to read more of his work. I have since reading this cooked one of his recipes and it wasn’t half bad. Which memoirs have left you feeling like you’ve just had a really honest, open, funny and sad catch up with a new found friend even though you’ve never met them?

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17 Comments

Filed under Books of 2011, Books To Film, Harper Collins, Nigel Slater, Review

17 responses to “Toast – Nigel Slater

  1. Annabel

    Butterscotch angel delight – gosh how I loved that as a kid. I loved the TV adaptation, but haven’t read the book. I do have some of his cookbooks though, and like Nigella he writes about the food and the ingredients and how they make you feel wonderfully – the chip butty section in the Potatoes chapter in Appetite springs to mind…

    • I have a lot of love for Nigella too Annabel I have to say. I have also been back onto the joys of Angel Delight in the last few weeks whilst I have felt shockingly rubbish, its the perfect treat.

  2. I also really really loved this and also found it by chance on someone else’s shelves. I don’t think he has written any other books like this but his cookbooks are all wonderful. Like you I don’t use cookbooks much but some of his are so inspiring you can’t help yourself. I have a Marie Claire Cookbook that he did quite a while ago that is amazing, and his Simple Desserts etc are great too. And me too for the Butterscotch Angel Delight.

    • How bizarre we both found this book on other peoples shelves, well I never! I must do a post on other peoples shelves at some point actually so thank you for reminding me.

  3. I loved Toast too – Would highly recommend still watching the tv programme if you can – Hopefully you are not as emotional as me and won’t sob all the way through!

  4. This is truly a brilliant book, i read it several years ago. And as a big foodie I can really relate to associating certain memories and relationships with different foods. I’m not sure he has done anything similar recently but I got ‘Tender, Volume One’ for Christmas. It’s a cookery/gardening/book about love for vegetables. His writing is wonderful and shows a passion for veg that i also share.
    Who couldn’t love a book that describes an aubergine as a ‘big, purple shlong’!

    • My Mum has the tender books I think, in fact I am sure she got the latest one for her last birthday. I have managed to pick up Eating for England since and will be reading that soon.

      The big purple schlong comment has made me laugh and laugh.

  5. Karen

    I loved ‘Toast” and love his style of writing – I read his and Nigella’s recipe books just for their style. He’s written a similar thing – more of the butterscotch angel delight and less of the memoir, asking such questions as should you stir jam in your rice pudding or not? and which Quality Street is best? – ‘Eating For England’

  6. I think I read a book of his on foods of Britain which was wonderful reading.

  7. *Eating for England* – also very nostalgic and quite touching in places. I didn’t think it was as universal in appeal and application as *Toast* (it probably would help to be English).

  8. I haven’t read “Toast” but if you have any interest in cooking then run and buy “Kitchen Diaries” and his recent two-volume work “Tender”. He is (like Nigella) one of the great proponents of the “I cook it this way” school of British cuisine. I was very impressed with the recent television adaption of Toast.

    • I am fortunate to be living with relatives who have all his cookery books and I have even been cooking some of the delightful recipies when I have been able in the last few months, they have all (so far) turned out to be delicious.

  9. Pingback: Foodie Books, But Not Cook Books (Well, Not Quite Yet) | Savidge Reads

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