I’ve had a copy of Toast, Nigel Slater’s memoir, for quite some time, inspired to read it after watching the film of the book last year. I read probably the first third and then went on to read something else and then something else after that and then something else after that, you get my drift. However I started reading it again recently, picking up from where I left off easily due to having remembered the film and also because of the format of the book being very short stories, so it wasn’t hard to find a fresh place to start. So I started reading it again and found myself whizzing through the book (aided by a recent 4 hour wait in a hospital waiting room) and really enjoyed it.
Just as with Nigel Slater’s cook books, Nigel Slater when he writes a memoir is just as readable, he has a very smooth way with words and is often quite funny. I think a lot of people would have seen the Toast adaptation on TV and I know a lot of foodies who have already read the book, so it’s not much of a secret that Slater did not have a particularly happy childhood. His mother dies when he is young and his father marries the housekeeper, someone that at least the teenage Slater thinks is a horrible woman.
I remember a lot of criticism after the adaptation came out that Slater was a bit of a nasty, spoilt brat as a child, specially in his behaviour towards his father’s second wife and the book doesn’t particularly paint Slater in that much of a better light (although in fairness the second wife did sound an incredibly manipulative woman). The sections in the book where the teenage Slater is unhappy because his step mother is telling him to do his homework, wash his face etc. etc., whereas as far as he’s concerned other boys can do what they want, did sort of suggest he was on cloud cuckoo land with that one.
The book was fascinating though as a look into what food and what relationships with food, shaped someone who is now 30 – 40 years (?) later one of my favourite food writers. It was also a trip through memory lane of the sort of dishes that thankfully I can only very, very vaguely remember, prawn cocktail, ugh no thank you, I am very glad that has remained in the past.
And finally it’s worth reading for the walnut whips, particularly when they’re combined with a spot of dog walking, the final scene on that one is cringe worthy hilarious.