Toast by Nigel Slater

This was a book club choice for my local book group. I’m generally not into celebrity autobiographies, they seem to me to be a cynical attempt to extract cash from the book buying public around Christmastime.

Having said that you don’t go to a book club not to read the books, so in for a penny in for a pound. Off I trotted to the local library to pick up a copy. My word did I have to eat humble pie (pun intended). It is extremely good. 

It covers Nigel Slater’s childhood leading up to his Mother’s death and his father’s subsequent marriage to the dreadful Joan.

His mother is a lady who is not blessed with culinary skills (much like this book blogger), but not due to lack of effort. Even lamb chops and peas are a sorry state after she has had a go at them. Following her death, Nigel’s father forms a relationship with a social climber called Joan, who can bake a mean cake. 

The book has a wonderful intimate style, mainly because Slater has written it from the point of view of his young self, without any interpretation that an adult might add, or the benefit of hindsight. What you get is a how a young boy growing into adolescence sees the world. No mean literary feat. 

The book is split into short sections each titled with a food related topic. For those of us who grew up in the 60s, 70s and early 80s, the nostalgia will be almost overwhelming. Memories of Angel Delight, the discovery of exotic foods such as spaghetti, and cheese and pineapple on sticks at parties will come flooding back . 

Slater writes with real feeling and you can see how food influenced his thoughts even when he was little. His understanding of and curiosity about food has clearly always been in him.

Travelling through these formative years with him is a pleasure, particularly knowing what a success he has become.