I like to read memoirs; they are likely my favorite genre.
I am nosy by nature, but there is also something humanizing about finding the common threads in people's stories that I love.
I started Nigel Slater's Toast last night. Mark brought it home from the library for me, the way I come by most of my reading material these days.
I am a huge fan of Mr. Slater's food writing and cookbooks. I bake his rose and pistachio cake at least once a year.
I like the simplicity of his style.
I like that he never Americanizes his writing, or cookery, to gain a wider audience.
I like that he is not a cheeky monkey like Jamie Oliver (who I also like).
I like that he is classy AND rustic.
The book is predictably well written. He is an excellent writer. Both writerly and organic and unstuffy at the same time. He uses a sort of vignette style, each chapter could easily be an essay, standing alone, which makes sense, since he writes for magazines, and it's likely that each chapter may have indeed stood alone, at some point.
He writes of his mother's terrible cookery, and his father's moody indifference, and touches on his own outsiderness, without wallowing.
I haven't reached it yet, but I know his mother dies when he is nine.
I know his father shacks up with the cleaning lady and I know things go badly for the balance of his childhood.
I've read the outraged outcries from the stepmother's children, but their tales ring hollow and sound totally absurd. One of the step-sisters (ten years older than Nigel) tells of how her mother inherited everything, when the father died, when Nigel was 13(!) and that the mother kept it all to live on, with the intention of leaving the estate to him when she died.
What I wonder did she think a 13 year old orphan was going to live on in the interim?
I suspect Nigel's recollection of the step-mother's trashiness and bass nature was spot on. To his credit, he did praise her cooking.
In some kind of twisted way, I suppose he owes his career to her selfishness, as he went off to work in his first kitchen when his father died. Cooking is the only industry where child labor is still alive and normal in western countries.