Read Your Toast
Toast was the last selection of my book club. I probably would not have read it on my own but ended up loving it, as well as all others in the group.
The book is British food writer and journalist Nigel Slater’s story moving from mid-childhood to mid-adolescence told through food. He only gives you glimpses of others in his life. For instance, you know his dad has a business, assume it’s successful, but have no idea what he does.
He writes with raw honesty about experiences. You can feel his frustration, pain and happiness as well as his loneliness and angry. He loved his ‘mum’ dearly, loved spending time with her and telling us how she struggled to produce edible food. The book starts with her burning the toast. You find out she died of health issues but only after you’re lead down a path believing she was having a difficult pregnancy.
His father was cold, unloving and not around much. Although he had two brothers, they were much older and also not around. Thus Slater was in a food world of his own.
Sad overtones definitely stood out but not in a bad way. There were very funny episodes too. Like his nightly walks to a forbidden place with the dog and a favorite candy bar (Walnut Whips) to observe couples making out in the back of cars. He ventures there with his dad at a later date and finds hundreds of Walnut Whip wrappers and a funny look from his dad.
I enjoyed reading his discussions and descriptions of food, a fair amount not familiar to me. For instance, tinned ham, the drink Ribena, and steak and kidney pie. And the candy- Flapjacks, Sherbet Fountains, Curly Wurlys, Parma Violets, Space Dust and Aztec chocolate bars. I think he had a sweet tooth.
Then there was the way the British refer to things like boiling water on the Aga or eating truckles of cheese. Intrigued, I picked a few items up at the Sacramento store Touch of Britain.
Ann hosted the meeting and made a Slater recipe, Baked Onions with Parmesan and Crème. I had seconds and several of us requested the recipe- they were satisfyingly good and made me say “Mmmm” to myself.
I enjoyed Toast so much I put another book of his on my reading list. If you’re looking for an entertaining late winter – early spring read, Toast may satisfy you too. And definitely try the onions!