Sunday, 2 December 2012

Toast- the story of a boy's hunger - book review

For a near – forty woman who has spent far too many hours worrying about all things food related (think Jenny Craig, Weight-watchers, imagined food intolerances and digestive issues and a history of roller-coaster numbers on the dreaded scale), Toast: the story of a boy’s hunger by Nigel Slater would have to be a miracle-worker to engage the reader.

Well miracle worker he must be, for I could barely put the book down. For someone who has barely set foot in the kitchen except to read the labels of the packets and tins in the pantry and sweat about fructose, fat and carbohydrates, suddenly this descriptive delight of a memoir has inspired a rich and delightful chocolate cake, a caramel mud-cake ‘Mum, this is the best cake I’ve ever eaten’ and a curried chicken soup produced in the slow-cooker, all within a week of reading.
Based on Nigel’s experiences with food, this book become the ultimate ‘show don’t tell’ example (would-be writers take note), as the story emerges from between the engaging and palate enticing lines to bring the reader’s heart as close to the heart of young Nigel as a story could manage. The characters are brought to 3D life in the novel and they are all that characters should be; unique, quirky, imperfect and loveable in their humanity. Relationships emerge in scraps as scenes reveal the intricacies of the dance between human beings.

Memorable lines abound.

‘It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you … once the warm, salty butter has hit your tongue you are smitten. Putty in their hands.’

‘Mum drew the line at Mr Whippy cornets, which she considered beyond the pale … heaven knows what she would have said if she had seen me on my way to school, biting off the end and sucking the soft, grainy ice ream through the bottom.’

‘Cake holds a family together. I really believed it did. My father was a different man when there was a cake in the house. Warm. The sort of man I wanted to hug rather than shy away from.’

What a read! My taste buds are going to thank Nigel for this one forever, my hips and thighs will curse him and my family therapist will go broke, because now I have the answers! Five bloody good stars. Thanks Nigel.

Sue Oaks, copyright 2012.