TOAST by Nigel Slater

I first came across Nigel Slater when he was the food writer for the English Marie Claire magazine in the 1990s. I loved the simplicity of his food, how he wrote about whatever the month's dish was with such care and and love. I always felt revived and rested, as if I had just finished a good cup of tea after reading his column. So it is with this book, first published in 2003, a memoir of his childhood, how he got hooked onto food, how innate and precious food was to him. The book has since been made into a movie with Freddie Highmore as the young Nigel, and Helena Bonham Carter as his step mother - perfectly cast.

Nigel was born in the late 1950s, an only child. His mother Kathleen 'never was much of a cook'. What an understatement. I get the impression she wanted to be a good cook, but somehow there was a massive disconnect between what she wanted to produce and what was actually produced. Tragically Kathleen dies, and eventually his father remarries Joan, it would seem the complete opposite of his mother in every way. But boy, could she cook! Unsurprisingly Nigel has a difficult relationship with his stepmother. Joan doesn't come across as the horrible stepmother - it cannot be easy to take on a young boy who loved his mother very much. But there are some very strained times between the two of them. Nigel eventually grows up, leaves school, finds his food mojo, and as so often happens with young people who are a bit lost, he builds great relationships with one or two older adults who sort of mentor him, ensuring he gets onto the right path for him.

I loved this, just loved it. How he writes about food, the tactile feel of working with your hands. I have learnt a better way to rub butter into flour when making scones, and the result is much better. You can almost feel that he is crafting his food while he rights about it. A very precious book.

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