Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Toast: A Story of a Boy's Hunger by Nigel Slater

What I like about Nigel Slater's memoir, Toast, is the way each anecdote from Slater's childhood is titled with a food. Slater's mother was a great home cook who provided flapjacks, pancakes, apple crumble, rice pudding, a Sunday roast, mashed potato, and so on. Slater was close to his mother, less so to his father and much older brothers, who had left home when he was young. He refused to eat eggs and loved sweets.

The defining moment of his childhood was his mother's death when he was nine. His father mourned in silence and Slater wasn't allowed to go to the funeral. Slater was utterly alone in his grief. Father and son didn't talk about their bereavement and an unsettled normalcy was resumed in their house. Young Nigel found that his father left two marshmallows by his bedside at night time. He had written in a school essay shortly before his mother's death that a marshmallow was the food closest to a kiss. Slater's dad couldn't connect with his son in any verbal way and they remained distant until his father's death when Nigel was sixteen.

Despite the sometimes tense subject matter of Toast, this is an enjoyable and readable book. I found myself captivated by the way food and life are intertwined in Slater's writing. (I also think about my life as being intertwined with food.) The small sketches are often humorous and enlightening. I am looking forward to finishing the book soon.

Toast was our monthly Kitchen Reader book. You can read Nigel Slater's columns for The Observer here and see the other times I have written about him here. Toast has been made into a movie, which I would love to see!

Do you see your life and food as intertwined?

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