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Toast Hardcover – October 7, 2004

74 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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Slater, celebrated in Britain for his food columns in London's Observer, recalls his childhood in great and moving detail, interweaving his hunt for oral gratification with prose portraits of his family. His mother, utterly devoted to him yet something of a kitchen klutz, could not make up for the physical abuse that burst from his conflicted father. Slater's mother's early demise and his father's remarriage to the family's cleaning woman did little to enhance the sensitive lad's self-image. What joy the boy found stemmed from occasional culinary successes out of his mother's kitchen and from an endless, stereotypically English cascade of sweets. Readers of Slater's accounts of eating out in the 1960s may come to believe that the British really invented fast food, something for which Americans generally shoulder blame. Slater's hunger for both food and human love are achingly recorded. American readers may find some of this memoir tedious and obscure since Slater obsesses over the seemingly boundless output of British candy factories, never employing a generic term when there is a regional trademarked noun at hand. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


* 'Nigel is a bloody genius.' Jamie Oliver * 'The greatest cookery writer of them all.' Guardian * 'The pick of the bunch ... bubbling with ideas, suggestions, hints and personal opinions that genuinely help you to make your own mind up about how and what to cook.' The Times * 'He's a genius.' Matthew Fort, Guardian * 'Slater remains the reigning champion, a writer incapable of uninspiring sentences.' Daily Express * 'No one writes more temptingly about book.' Independent * 'My kitchen god' Red --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; First Edition edition (October 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592400906
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592400904
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,125,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Ed Uyeshima HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
Food writer Nigel Slater is a man after my own heart, as he, like me, relates episodes of his childhood, through the food he ate at the time. I am not familiar with many of the foods he references since they are Brit-specific, for example, oddities such as grilled grapefruit, space dust, angel delight, cheese-and-onion crisps, arctic roll, and heinz tinned puddings. At the same time, I feel his descriptions are so illustrative that it is easy to sense what these concoctions taste like. He also captures the ambivalent feelings consumers had in the 1950's and 60's about accepting modern convenience foods, especially with his mother's culinary pride and his own fastidious palette on the line. Even more personally, Slater shows how he used food as an emotional substitute for a mother who died early and a distant father, who vented his frustration through abuse and ultimately remarried the family cleaning lady as if to destroy the family nucleus intentionally. However, the author does not dwell on the emotional impact of these events but rather uses his edible memories as the catharsis to which we could all relate.

The author can be a cipher as he is hesitant to incur the risk of sharing too much of his personal history. The wider significance of the people in his life is never explained, and as a reader, I don't miss this dimension since Slater is so engaging in his narrative, the focus of which is almost entirely on himself - through breakfasts, lunches and dinners. He is full of hilarious anecdotes such as his overachieving stepmother who sounds like she would put Martha Stewart to shame or taking nightly walks with the dog and a candy bar to observe couples making out in the back of cars.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By MICHAEL ACUNA on March 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"My mother is scraping a piece of burned toast out of the kitchen window, a crease of annoyance across her forehead..." So begins Nigel Slater's amusing tribute to his life in food and the food in his life.

Each chapter begins with a food item and Slater riffs off of that to tell the story of his life and of his family: "Cake holds a family together. I really believed it did. My father was a different man when there was cake in the house....if he had a plate of cake in his hand I knew that I could climb up onto his lap."

We forget sometimes just how important home cooked meals mean/have meant/continue to mean to us. The food doesn't have to be great but it has to be prepared with care and of course served with love to mean something to us. What Slater has done is to take the ordinary, the everyday and elevate it to the sublime. And even though he writes about his childhood in England and the foods he fondly and not-so fondly remembers, his memories are so personal and the words to describe them are so lovingly related that they cease to only be of a particular time or place...they become universal: "You can't smell a hug. You can't hear a cuddle. But if you could, I reckon it would smell and sound of warm bread-and-butter pudding."
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By E. Woontner on November 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautiful, funny, sad coming-of-age story, a swirl of flavors and emotions in an England in transition, where the type of chocolate bar you ate defined who you were, and the hippies were still threatening and terrifying for the middle class, stiff upper lip kind. I enjoyed it immensely and praise the ability of the author in making this reading almost an olfactory and savoring experience. The story is almost too predictable, and maybe not so important as the way in which food, memories and emotions are strictly connected.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
`toast, the story of a young boy's hunger' is a memoir by noted British culinary writer, Nigel Slater, described in his flyleaf biographical blurb as `a national treasure'. Foremost among his accolades for this book is a blurb at the top of the front cover by his nibs, Jamie Oliver. Since I have not read any of Slater's other books, I cannot offer any opinion on the `national treasure' label, which I would tend to reserve for only those culinary figures of the very highest order, such as Elizabeth David and Julia Child. Regarding Sir Jamie's comment, I will attribute that to the fact that Mr. Slater is, in fact, a very good writer who does not, like Oliver, dictate his books into a tape recorder and have all the writing done by a copy editor. But I'm getting too far afield.

This particular book is a personal memoir covering a lot more than simply his food preferences as he was growing up. The flyleaf accurately compares the book to Tony Bourdain's `Kitchen Confidential' and Ruth Reichl's two memoir volumes, `Comfort Me With Apples' and `Tender at the Bone', but I think neither of these comparisons quite captures the tone of these memoirs. Like Bourdain, there are some later chapters recounting life in the back of the house of some major English restaurants, but the book is really not `about' these things. Like Reichl, Slater has a mother who is simply not a very good cook, although she does manage to avoid risking the poisoning of her guests by using spoiled food.

Oddly, the writing which comes to mind when I read this book is the pieces by Jean Shepherd in, among other books, `In God I Trust, All Others Pay Cash'. There is one huge difference, however, in that Shepherd's writing is not memoir, but satire. His stories are simply not true.
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