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Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  6,325 ratings  ·  637 reviews
A deliciously evocation story of a childhood in 1960s suburban England from one of the UK's best-loved and bestselling food writers, Nigel Slater. Toast is Nigel Slater's truly extraordinary story of a childhood remembered through food. In each chapter, as he takes readers on a tour of the contents of his family's pantry - rice pudding, tinned ham, cream soda, mince pies, ...more
Paperback, 238 pages
Published October 6th 2005 by Avery Publishing Group (first published January 15th 2003)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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Petra-X has 81 books awaiting reviews
Levels of guilt for not enjoying books that everyone else does.

Whenever I start to read a book that everyone seems to like and several of my friends write glowing reviews about and I absolutely loathe, I feel guilty. I feel that there is something wrong with me.

There is a scarcely-conscious ranking in my mind of how guilty I have to feel about disliking a book. At the top of the scale are the much-lauded cultural icons I really, really loathe, like Virginia Woolf. Lots of guilt there.

At the bo
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-auto-bio
This is another 3.5 star rating, but lacking the ability to "split hairs" on goodreads, I take it to the next level.

What is painfully apparent from the first chapter of this book is that Nigel Slater lacked nourishment from the day he was born -- and remained that way until he reached adulthood and found his own reason for being. He seems to have been born into a family which had refined the art of witholding what a growing boy needs -- proper nourishment in body or soul.

From the first, we are i
Diane Barnes
Jan 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
A really magnificent and affecting biography of the author's boyhood told through the food he remembers, the death of his mother when he was nine, his father's remarriage to the cleaning lady who resented him and made his teen years miserable, and his years at culinary school and the first restaurant jobs he held. As an American, I just recently discovered Nigel Slater, but he seems to be a British institution in the food world. All I know is, this man can write. I just recently read Christmas C ...more
May 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Autobiographical account of middle class 60s/70s childhood, as defined and recalled by particular foods and his mother's poor cooking - except that it wasn't quite as bad as he makes out. As he is the same age as me, many of the typical foods of his childhood have strong memories for me too (Surprise peas, Angel Delight, Space Dust).

It is subtitled "A boy's hunger", and his hunger is emotional at least as much as it is culinary. The result is sweet and sour.

TV adaptation

There was a BBC version
Oct 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq, inner-worlds
A delightful little memoir written by Britain's greatest food writer. Written in bitesize chapters within a entire feast of words, Nigel Slater narrates with great honesty, wit and vividity his "story of a boy's hunger", his sexual awakening, his culinary journey through childhood and adolesence in sixties suburban England. 'Toast' is flavoured with Nigel's favourite tastes and teenage torments, decorated with a dollop of pain and seasoned with a great big pinch of passion for food and eating wh ...more
Sonia Gomes
Jan 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone...
Shelves: heartbreaking
Nigel Slater did not want to want to write an autobiography of his life...
He just wanted to pour out his grief, his confusion, his loneliness of that terrible period in his life when his Mother had died and his Father had married the cleaning lady. What hurt the most was his Father’s total indifference to him, Nigel.

‘Toast’ is written completely from the perspective of Nigel aged ten.
There is no thought of ‘what could my Father be going through’
‘what is my stepmother feeling?
These adult thou
I'm giving this one a fourth star because Slater really does write well; however, he became progressively bitchier as the book went on. His world fell apart when his mother died when he was 10, which is understandable, though not for the usual reasons. He's fairly open about his ability to manipulate his parents, esp his mother ("Eventually, if I nagged persistently enough, they'd get me what I wanted ... just as I'd moved on to wanting something else usually (sigh)"). Life with his single fathe ...more
Jul 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
I wouldn't say this was a bad book but it was very different from my expectations. I had expected something funny and tongue-in-cheek about growing up with a mother who couldn't cook.

It's actually much darker, exploring a childhood stained with death and a dysfunctional step family. There's also far too many references to various moments of sexual awakening. It's hard to see how these are relevant sometimes, and they're certainly much less enjoyable to read than the stories about food.

The main p
K.D. Absolutely
May 18, 2009 rated it liked it
This book brought back childhood memories. Not that I was into hard-to-pronounce food names when I was growing up but reading the book made me think back of how it was when I was growing up in Quezon. There is a part in Nigel's memory as a boy when he kept on discussing the odor of their house or the people in it. Did our house in Quezon have an odor? Maybe the odor of the sand (as our house had no cement flooring then), beer and smoke (as my father had those vices), copra (just like the last ti ...more
Jun 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Caroline by: Lari Washburn
Shelves: auto-and-biog
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, found
If you grew up in Britain in the 60s and 70s, you can open this book at any page and encounter a Proustian moment. Spaghetti in those long blue packets, with instructions in Italian (it was the only kind of pasta you could buy). Grated Parmesan in carboard drums ("Daddy, this cheese smells like sick." "Yes, son, I think it must be off."). Steak Diane flambed at the table in smart restaurants. Aztec bars, sherbet lemons, Curly-Wurlies, licking the filling out of Walnut Whips, it's all there; Nige ...more
Caroline Roberts
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the book but thought Slater, perhaps unintentionally, revealed himself to be something of a 'nasty piece of work'. His insinuation that his father was masturbating in the shed and his insistence that his step mother was trying to 'feed' his father to death (unlikely at best) were just two examples of 'memories' that reflected badly on the author. Following his fathers death he recounts the following in relation to his step mother:
'Joan fussed over me all week, making steak for m
Lynne Norman
I really wanted to like this book - I really did - as I generally like Slater as a food writer and presenter. But 'Toast' left a bitter taste - not what you want from a food-based memoir. The nostalgia felt heavy-handed, the humour (for instance the used condom incident) felt forced and cynical and Nigel - as portrayed by himself - came across unsympathetic and a little bit self-pitying. I also wondered at some of the memories he chose to share as, often, I felt he went well past the mark. I don ...more
About tapioca: "This is the most vile thing I have ever put in my mouth, like someone has stirred frog-spawn into wallpaper paste."

I love my library's used-book sale because I find random things I never would have heard of otherwise. This is a sad and funny memoir about growing up obsessed with food. At first I thought it was going to be a male, foodie version of Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life or A Girl Named Zippy . . . an entertaining memoir of a childhood in which nothing much scary or trag
Mar 11, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-group, food
An enjoyable collection of memories linked to food.

I felt sad for Nigel as a young boy. He seemed to lack so much. Gladly, he was able to find happiness as an adult.

When I finished this book, I immediately began to read Orxy and Crake. I was amazed at how many similar themes the two books shared. Mother leaves at a young age. Father is too distracted with life to pay attention to young boy. Many memories around food.

I think the two books make an interesting pair.
Like many people, some of my strongest memories are about some of the foods that I used to enjoy when growing up. Inevitable they are the sweetest and least healthy ones, the penny chews, blackjacks, sherbet dib dabs, Marathons lemon bon-bons, my mum’s Yorkshire puddings and salty chips by the seaside. Just w whiff of one of these can take me right back.

Nigel Slater is another of those who looks back on the foods of their childhood with nostalgia and a very fond eye. He loved helping his mother
Jacinta Butterworth
"Toast is food writer Nigel Slater’s story of a childhood recollected through food. The book is divided into bite-size chapters named after the foods of post-war England (Arctic Rolls, tinned ham, Jammie Dodgers). I enjoyed the book’s unconventional format—it reminded me of a running joke about my sister, who has a terrible memory but can recite entire menus from restaurants we went to as kids. That said, there were times when the food-related memories in Toast felt a little shallow and the narr ...more
Jul 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Food lovers
Recommended to Hannah by: My mother
Plot: This is the really creative auto-biography of the TV chef Nigel Slater. It was a wonderfully written story which was a times hilarious and at times heart breaking. It was really insightful and was really interesting to the see the kind of character he was as a child especially when you then look at the TV chef now. It also explains where his own love from food arrived and I found that really interesting to read about.

Structure: I loved this structure, I seriously think it was one of the b
Cynthia Dunn
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
If you've read the book and even if you haven't, you must watch the movie. The acting is wonderful and the music is all Dusty Springfield. Bring a handkerchief. ...more
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
This is not very good - it doesn't know what it wants to be, and it could've used much stronger editing throughout, as there's weird repetition (even between subsequent paragraphs) and there's no overriding plot, other than Slater getting a year older. The whole "this woman is so horrible" stuff about his stepmother takes up maybe 75 total pages of the book. It's introduced abruptly and dropped just as abruptly, as are so many other things in the book (what the hell happened with Stuart? He's a ...more
Sutter Lee
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Delicious coming-of-age story. Early childhood with delightful working atypical mom, who died young. Full of surprises, suspense, colorful characters, sex, perversion, evil step-mother, clueless father who feared his son was gay. All they had in common, other than love for the mother, was their sweet tooth. Way too much detail about candy bars.
I just read a The New Yorker article by Ian Parker about Edward St. Aublyn that there is such a glut on the publishing market in Britain about memoirs fr
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heard
While I enjoyed the food part of this memoir, I didn't like the tone. I came to it with no prior knowledge of who Slater is, I picked it up primarily because I needed an audio book, my library had this available, and it was a memoir.

Slater lost his mum early on, his brother was much older and left home soon after, which left Slater alone with his dad for awhile. Then his dad finds a new woman with whom to share his life, and his son is resentful and angry and bitter about this still. She admitte
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nigel Slater has, through a unique perspective, provided the reader with an insight into his tormented years of childhood and adolescence. From rice pudding to toast, each of his food exposures is linked to vignettes of his formative years. His mother had little success in cooking anything, but he had a deep attachment to her which helped compensate for his father who clearly displayed his total disappointment with his son who had no interest or ability in sport. Given the early death of his mot ...more
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
The story doesn't happen, it just goes, if that makes any sense. I guess I mean Slater starts off with a fairly strong opening sequence about his life with his mother and father but each chapter after that is just full of things that he ate. I'm wondering now if Slater did that to somehow try to convey how that food was related to his feeelings or his childhood but after a while it was like a grocery list or a la carte menu. The movie is soooo much more charming, I suggest seeing that before pic ...more
On the whole an entertaining & enjoyable read about Slater's childhood & his discovery of food.

However, I wasn't comfortable with the hints of sexual abuse (or maybe I read incorrectly between the lines) & some of the later sexual escapades seemed inappropriate & out-of-place, though when you're talking about a teenager boy they shouldn't be! Maybe I'm getting prudish in my old-age but something about some of the comments didn't sit well with me.

That aside it's an amusing read with the format
Nov 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
2004 notebook: his childhood in Wolverhampton, his mum's death and father's re-marriage told through taste and food. 60s childhood so chimes with mine - listening to the Beatles and eating sweets like Sherbert Fountains and pear drops and banana custard, butterscotch Angel Delight. Textures and colours and tastes faithfully described. Later when he goes to college the sex - described as shagging - is crude and uninteresting next to the sumptuous detail of the food. In the end there was too much ...more
Barbara Roycroft
Jun 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A lovely easy read taking us through the trials and tribulations of life as seen through Nigel Slaters eyes. You can almost hear his slow melodic voice telling the story . Definitely recommend it as an interesting Summer read !
Barry Pierce
Jan 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like food
Shelves: 21st-century
A very good memoir of Nigel Slater, told through food!
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
Dear Nigel in a repressed childhood, assaulted by post WW2 pretend food. I'll never eat trifle again ever. ...more
Harry McDonald
This was... way more depressing than I anticipated it being. Nigel Slater tells the story of his coming of age via food - how else - and assembles together the various heartbreaks, tensions and abuses that lined the way. Maybe I read it as being bleaker than it actually is, but nonetheless his prose is steeped in a profound sadness.
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Nigel Slater is a British food writer, journalist and broadcaster. He has written a column for The Observer Magazine for seventeen years and is the principal writer for the Observer Food Monthly supplement. Prior to this, Slater was food writer for Marie Claire for five years. He also serves as art director for his books.

Although best known for uncomplicated, comfort food recipes presented in earl

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