Book Review: Nigel Slater ~ Toast: the story of a boy’s hunger (2003)

Slater’s autobiography is unique. He doesn’t pamper readers with a chronology. Hints are offered. Hit records are mentioned. Primary school becomes secondary; a catering college; various jobs culminate in the Savoy Hotel. His sexuality develops. A randy gardener, a girl looking for a friend, in-house accommodation, a gay bar in London. The entirety is a mise en scene: beautiful incidents strung together.

Slater grew up in a culinary wasteland. Mash was the only glorious thing Mum ever made. (p31) But at an early age he was already comforting himself with flicking through cookery books, ogling photographs of exotic, for him, meals. The Marguerite Patton All Colour Cookbook was a source of great pleasure.

I don’t know what you want to look at that for,’ said Mum once, coming home early and catching me gazing at a photograph of Gammon Steaks with Pineapple and Cherries. ’It’s all very fancy, I can’t imagine who cooks like that.’ (p12)

A terrific book, which I warmly recommend.


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