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Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger Paperback – October 6, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From AudioFile

Slater's is a coming-of-age story, both in terms of his childhood and his eventual profession. Slater reads as he writes, beautifully, just as the right wine graces a marvelous meal. His British accent delights as he relates the pleasures of childhood toast, adolescent sweets, and grown-up cookery at London's Savoy Hotel. Further, he knows when to underwrite and when to gloriously overwrite. His is a bittersweet account of life with a loving mother, but a poor cook, who is battling the asthma that will take her life, and a loving but distant father. Listening to this memoir revisits one's memories of food (good and awful) and even, perhaps, a coming to terms with one's own childhood memories. L.C. © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

"Nigel Slater at his unpretentious, delicious best." –Nigella Lawson, author of How to Be a Domestic Goddess

"His writing could not be more palate-cleansing… his acidic riffs put you in mind of Nick Hornby, Martin Amis and Philip Larkin all at the same time." –The New York Times

"Nigel is a genius." –Jamie Oliver, author of Jamie’s Kitchen, The Naked Chef, and Happy Days with the Naked Chef

"Nigel Slater's Toast is an exceptional book. It brilliantly weaves hungers together: belly hunger, sexual hunger, and the hunger for love and loss. I loved every page and the poignancy of being a child is dead on." –Jane Stern, author of Ambulance Girl, coauthor of Roadfood, and contributing editor at Gourmet magazine

"I enjoyed every moment of reading Nigel Slater's Toast. It's hard to imagine a more elegantly rendered memoir of growing up. Funny, poignant, artful, erotic, sad, a story conveyed through intelligent and unsentimental prose—the book is a jewel." –Michael Ruhlman, author of The Soul of a Chef

"Toast is a remarkable story of a young man's life, and the food that nourished it. Well written, lively and engaging." –Marie Simmons, author of Fig Heaven

"The genius of his food writing comes from an obvious belief that food and happiness share the same organ in the brain." –Lynne Truss

"Convincing, engaging, and rich with detail, Slater’s prose lets readers taste the pink marshmallows, smell the freshly baked oat cookies, and feel the crunch of the green beans. Paced as superbly as a seven-course meal, [Toast is] able to engage the heart and the memory as well as the taste buds.--Publishers Weekly

"A banquet of unlikely delectations… England’s answer to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential." –Daily Telegraph (UK)

"No one writes more temptingly about food." –The Independent (UK)

"An inspired memoir, boil-in-the-bag Proust!" –Tim Adams, Observer (UK)

"This artful, disconcerting, endearing book deserves a place in the literature of childhood unhappiness and survival against the odds." –Daily Telegraph (UK)

"A vivid record of people whose lives never warrant the study of historians, biographers or even novelists... wonderful... extraordinary." –Matthew Fort, The Observer (UK)

"Nigel Slater's Toast eats its way through a difficult childhood... this is an ingenious and touching treat." –Hermione Lee, Times Literary Supplement Books of the Year 2003 (UK)

"Utterly irresistible… You read this remarkable memoir partly cringing, partly marvelling at Slater’s hallucinogenic retrieval off times past. He is the Proust of the Nesquik Era. – Independent Books of the Year (UK)

"Proves he can write mouth-wateringly about families and life, too: I gobbled it up." –Daily Telegraph Books of the Year (UK)

"Toast follows a recipe—boyhood blues without bitterness—that looks simple yet is actually hard to pull off. Slater manages it." –Guardian (UK)

"Delightful… singular and original." –Evening Standard (UK) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Avery; Reprint edition (October 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592401619
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592401611
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,945,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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