09 February 2012


Victoria Hamilton and Nigel Kennedy in the kitchen in ToastPhoto: BBC/Ruby Films.

I recently watched the British film Toast (2010). Based on the memoir by food writer and critic Nigel Slater, Toast is the story of a young boy growing up in 1960s England who’s obsessed with food. He has a father who is distant and a mother whom he adores save for one unfortunate thing—she can’t cook. After she passes away, his father begins to spend time with a cleaning woman whom he later marries. Nigel may not like his new stepmother but she knows how to cook. They soon become rivals in the kitchen as they try and compete for his father’s affection.

Helena Bonham Carter is great (as always) as Mrs. Potter, the stepmother, but I have to say I thought the best part of the film was the beginning when Nigel is little and his mother is still alive.

Buying food at the local grocers, he pleads with his mother to buy a meat pie or some cheese but she refuses (she prefers meals that come in cans). Another time he attempts to help her make a cake from scratch with disastrous results. The mother is so awkward and Nigel so eager that the scene is almost too painful to watch.

Yet as much as Nigel yearns for real food (in one scene, his father catches him oohing and awing over photos in a cookbook), he doesn’t hold it against his mother. After one particular off meal, she announces that she'll make toast instead. Nigel says, “No matter how hard things get, it’s impossible not to love someone who made you toast.” No words were ever more true.

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