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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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Toast – introduction

Helena Bonham Carter as Joan Potter, Freddie Highmore as Nigel Slater in Toast

Toast is the ultimate nostalgia trip through everything edible in Sixties Britain.

Based on the heart-wrenchingly bittersweet story of food writer Nigel Slater's childhood, and set to the songs of Dusty Springfield, Toast is a delicious love letter to the tastes and smells that a young boy associates with his journey into adulthood.

Nigel's mother was always a poor cook but her chronic asthma and addiction to all things canned isn't helping. No ordinary boy, Nigel, on the other hand, laps up cookbooks, spending all his time gazing longingly at the delights on offer in Percy Salt's grocers.

Nigel's dad, meanwhile, worries that there is something "wrong" with his son and the two find it difficult to connect. Nigel finds it far easier relating to Josh, the gardener, who teaches Nigel about the wonders of nature as they sit munching freshly picked radishes and pork pies.

As his mother's illness worsens, so too do Nigel's relations with his father. The bolognese he cooks is far too exotic; the uncooked pie must be finished; and his father's rage, as Nigel insists on picking every last bit of jelly off the tinned ham at the annual picnic, hits an all-time high. Dad then fires Josh for reasons unknown to Nigel.

Just before Christmas, Nigel's mother dies, leaving Nigel and his father heartbroken. Their touching efforts to look after each other, often through gestures with food, sadly seem to miss the target and his father begins to spend his evenings at the Masonic lodge until a new cleaner, Mrs Potter, arrives on the scene.

Mrs Potter's curves, charms and lemon meringue pies quickly bewitch Nigel's father and, much to Nigel's horror, the three soon embark on a move to the country.

The one silver lining in the cloud of a new school is Domestic Science class, where Nigel can finally shine, and cooking soon becomes the key weapon in the battle for dad's affections.

Ironically, the main casualty of these culinary skirmishes is Nigel's father, as his waistline grows and grows as Mrs Potter's cooking turns competitive.

Hoping to escape the madness, Nigel lands a job in the kitchen of his local pub. It is here that Nigel's eyes are opened to a world of opportunity, both culinary and sexually. He is soon smitten with both the owner's son and his cooking.

When his father dies, Nigel's mind is set as he escapes the confines of the countryside and packs a bag for London, arriving at the door of The Savoy Hotel.


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