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Only a true food lover could turn warmed, lightly browned bread into a thing of poetry. But juxtaposed against nightly meals of tinned entrees heated on the stove, English food writer Nigel Slater did just that in his memoir, Toast, recalling a simple meal of toasted, buttered bread with prose. That book is now a film, and that film opens today at the Angelika Film Center. (Read a review here).
Young Nigel was up against all odds if becoming a true gourmand was his initial goal. He had no mentors. His mother was afraid of spaghetti, and his father didn't care if his fish cooked so far past well done it was reduced to cinders.
Slater grew up in a culinary dead-zone, and brings his words to life in a film filled loaded with period details -- a radio on a buffet table, an old record player, cars and dress. And then there's the food. England isn't exactly known for its cuisine. And while London and other large cities have fostered improving culinary offerings recently, it's safe to say that dining in England in the 1960s was far from inspiring.
But the death of Nigel's mother ushers his culinary awakening. It's her replacement, a maid turned evil stepmother, that fuels his love and curiosity about cooking. A barrage of nightly meals -- coq au vin, roast duck, pies and pastries -- force Nigel to pick up a chef knife if he's ever to compete for his father's affection. Nigel loses that battle, but he finds himself in his cooking in a movie packed with foodie imagery and lots of jellied ham.