Toast

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October 22, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

A celebrated food writer for the U.K.’s Observer, Nigel Slater spent his childhood obsessed with treats like fairy cakes and candy floss. And though he does provide a glossary for Yanks — cupcakes and cotton candy, incidentally — no translation is needed for this unassuming autobiography. At its sweet heart, Toast is a stirring tale of a troubled childhood, strung together by memorable meals both appetizing and revolting: Mum (who died when he was 9) mixing a Christmas cake, Dad force-feeding him eggs. Walnut whips were his dessert of choice while spying on secret lovers; medium-rare filet got him laid. And toast? It’s Slater’s ultimate comfort food; he adores its ”rough, toasted crust,” the ”doughy cushion” beneath, and its ”warm, salty” butter topping. ”It is impossible,” he declares, ”not to love someone who makes toast for you.”

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