Toast is a pretty easy read and is split up into bite sized pieces that are interesting enough to get you to want to read each one or two page segment. The writing isn't gripping enough to cause you to go to bed late or miss the bus in the morning because you couldn't put it down, but the story is intriguing enough to get you to come back and read yet another couple pages (until you've finished the book).
His memories move between delightful remembrances and a melancholy achingness. At one point in the story, as his mother's health ails due to asthma, I was brought almost to tears as he recalls his mother preparing pie crusts with him for mince meat pie.
"Isn't it a bit early?" I say, quizzing Mum over her plan to make the mince meat pies ten days before Christmas."No, I'm going to put them in the freezer so they are ready for you to pop in the oven whenever you want one." It's about time we had something in the freezer.[...]"Here, you have a go, darling." She hands me the wooden pin with its red handles and goes to the top drawer for one of her Ventolin inhalers. There seem to be more than ever lately.[...]Mum walks over to the larder and there is much clanking and banging, I hear tins being pushed along the shelves, even the Christmas pudding being moved."Sorry, honeypie, I could have sworn I had some mincemeat, we'll have to put it all away in the fridge till tomorrow."[...]"But Mummy, you PROMISED!""Darling, I'm sorry, I forgot to get it when I went to the shops.""You're HOPELESS, I hope you DIE." I run up the stairs to my room, slam the door and lie facedown on the bed. I knew she'd forget. I just KNEW it.
His stories give you a window on his childhood and his perception of his well-to-do parents, mother's asthma and ailing health, his step-mother, early sexual experiences (and, later as a young man, frequent "shaggings"), revulsion to certain foods (milk, eggs), and his fascination with good food.
The story is interesting, especially if you like books that aren't cherry coated. Nigel's early life was sprinkled with grief, dirtiness, and, occasionally, shocking events - and he doesn't hide any of it. More than anything, it's the frankness and openness that Nigel writes with that kept me reading through the rest of the book. In the end, it left me feeling a bit guilty that I had been exposed to the personal secrets of a man who I didn't even know. But, it's hard not to feel like you really know Nigel as a human being (instead of the celebrity of a famous food columnist) after reading Toast.}?>
I've also got a couple of his cookery books. He's a geat chef and and, from the little I've learned about him, a nice man, too!