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Toast -

Nigel Slater

Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger -

One of Britain's most well-known cooks describes his personal culinary odyssey, from dangerous encounters with his mother's weevil-seasoned cakes to being harangued by readers who think he deliberately styles Yorkshire puddings to look like a woman's private parts. This book aims to capture 30 years of British cooking and the recipes that we have grown up with since the days when a grilled grapefruit was the last word in dinner party chic. Everyone has gorged on cake mix, endured disastrous dinner parties, and put up with the loved one who can only ever produce burnt toast. Nigel Slater is no different. Accounts of hotels modelled on Fawlty Towers, the mystery of the disappearing condom and the seafood cocktail, and many more, take readers behind the scenes of British cuisine to reveal the unlikely origins of one of our foremost cooks.

There were only three of us at school whose house wasn’t joined to the one next door. Number 67 Sandringham Road, always referred to as ‘York House,’ had mock-Tudor wooden beams, a double garage of which one half doubled as a garden shed and repository for my brothers’ canoes, and a large and crumbling greenhouse. I was also the only one to have tasted Arctic Roll. While my friends made do with the pink, white and brown stripes of a Nalitan ice-cream brick, my father would bring out this newfangled frozen gourmet dessert. Arctic Roll was a sponge-covered tube of vanilla ice-cream, its USP being the wrapping of wet sponge and ring of red jam so thin it could have been drawn on with an architect’s pen.

In Wolverhampton, Arctic Roll was considered to be something of a status symbol. It contained mysteries too. Why, for instance, does the ice cream not melt when the sponge defrosts? How is it possible to spread the jam so thin? How come it was made from sponge cake, jam and ice cream yet managed to taste of old cardboard? And most importantly, how come cold cardboard tasted so good?

As treats go, this was the big one, bigger even than a Cadbury’s MiniRoll. This wasn’t a holiday or celebration treat like trifle. This was a treat for no obvious occasion. Its appearance had nothing to do with being good, having done well in a school test, having been kind and thoughtful. It was just a treat, served with as much pomp as if it were a roasted swan at a Tudor banquet. I think it was a subtle reminder to the assembled family and friends of how well my father’s business was doing. Whatever, there was no food that received such an ovation in our house. Quite an achievement for something I always thought tasted like a frozen carpet.

Excerpted from Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger by Nigel Slater. Copyright 2003. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger -

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