It made me laugh. While it is often a sad tale--his mother dies young, his father is remote, the mistress doesn't love the boy, his friends eat better--this is not a woe-is-me-book. He sees the humor, and tries to impart that onto the reader, in the fact that his mother, even before she grew so ill, could cook/bake a mere five or so items. They ate mostly "tinned." And even that she overcooked. He sees the humor in his father's taking of a mistress, the new housekeeper, who attempts to demand respect, cleanliness, obedience from the boy, the witch! Surprisingly, while the whole book talks of food, there is little on his becoming a chef and very popular cookbook author. There is more hilarity in the awful foods than the delicious. He reveals his deep thoughts,his nightly voyeurisms up where the teenagers park, and his youthful attempts at "shagging," a British euphemism for -- yes-- boffing. And why is it one can laugh so hard at an adolescent male's masturbation, whereas if it'd been a girl talking one might blush for her?
Except for Monty Python, I don't usually care for British anything. Perhaps because I could see how Slater could easily have grown into member of the Flying Circus, I really enjoyed and recommend this book.
This book ranged from funny to sad to pathetic to disgusting, sometimes within the same sentence. It's an amazing, fascinating (often not for the squeamish) tour of English food, and the role that food played in a boy's life. Be prepared to look up a lot of Britishisms.
If you enjoyed "Tender to the Bone" (I loved the book) you might enjoy this book. This is the male verison but set in England. Nigel Slater is the author of several cookbooks but you find it hard to believe he has an interest in food after having a mother you could literally not boil water.
From Amazon.com: Toast is Nigel Slaters truly extraordinary story of a childhood remembered through food. In each chapter, as he takes readers on a tour of the contents of his familys pantryrice pudding, tinned ham, cream soda, mince pies, lemon drops, bourbon biscuitswe are transported....
His mother was a chops-and-peas sort of cook, exasperated by the highs and lows of a temperamental stove, a finicky little son, and the asthma that was to prove fatal. His father was a honey-and-crumpets man with an unpredictable temper. When Nigels widowed father takes on a housekeeper with social aspirations and a talent in the kitchen, the following years become a heartbreaking cooking contest for his fathers affections. But as he slowly loses the battle, Nigel finds a new outlet for his culinary talents, and we witness the birth of what was to become a lifelong passion for food. Nigels likes and dislikes, aversions and sweet-toothed weaknesses, form a fascinating backdrop to this exceptionally moving memoir of childhood, adolescence, and sexual awakening.
A bestseller (more than 300,000 copies sold) and award-winner in the UK, Toast is sure to delight both foodies and memoir readers on this side of the pondespecially those who made such enormous successes of Ruth Reichls Tender at the Bone and Anthony Bourdains Kitchen Confidential. Nigel Slater is the author of several classic cookbooks, including Real Fast Food and the award-winning Appetite. He has written a much-loved column for The Observer (London) for more than a decade and has been described by the media as a national treasure. Praise for Nigel Slater's Toast:
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
"Many scenes are hilarious and the language is so evocative that it will stimulate your own fond remembrance of meals past."
"At its sweet heart, Toast is a stirring tale of a troubled childhood, strung together by memorable meals both appetizing and revolting."
"Using prosaic touchstones like milk skin, tinned fruit, and bad apple crumble, Slater recounts his harsh coming-of-age in [...] unsauced sentences. Toast will leave you with a newfound belief that chef Jamie Oliver, who has proclaimed Slater a genius, has good taste in more than just arugula."
Nigel is a genius.
Jamie Oliver, author of Jamies Kitchen, The Naked Chef, and Happy Days with the Naked Chef