Reading: Feast and Toast

I've recently re-read two books about food, that are not cookbooks. One of them is a book that I must have picked up some years ago, probably during one of my bargain bin raids at Barnes & Noble or a similar store. It's called Feast Here Awhile: Adventures in American Eating, by Jo Brans. It's quite an enjoyable read for a foodie, as the author winds her way (sometimes at a slightly annoyingly leisurely pace) through her life through food and vice versa, from growing up in Mississippi to the early '90s the first incarnation of the price-of-the-year number Restaurant Week lunch event in New York. This book is out of print, but seems to be available from many used book outlets.

The other book is Toast: The Story Of A Boy's Hunger, by Nigel Slater. Nigel Slater is a food columnist for the Observer in London, and his writings and recipes are a pure delight. He's not as well known outside of the U.K. as Nigella Lawson, but his cookbooks are every bit as worthwhile as the Domestic Goddess's. Toast is his autobiography, in a sense, told again through the prism of his relationship to food. It's a more powerful narrative than the previous book, and more personal. If you spent any of your growing up years in middle-class suburban England, as I did, it will give you some serious pangs of nostalgia too.

I love to read books like these. It allows me to discover yet another person as obsessed with food and tastes as I am, and also reminds me again how powerful and influence food is in our lives. I don't think that food is just about eating, or coming up with a recipe or another. When you start to think of important moments in your life in terms of what you ate, and the places you travelled in terms of what dishes you savored, then you have become a true foodie. In some ways, I think this is why I have a blog thats just about food. I think that all foodies channel Proust in our ways, though we may not be as masterful at narrating our memories.

(Incidentally, New York Restaurant Weekis still going on - if you're visiting New York during that week, be sure to phone your favorite restaurant way in advance. This year, of course, the price for lunch at many of the top city restaurants will be a mere $20.05.)


Hello! I recently discovered your lovely website and I've been having a delicious time reading all your recipes and stories. I'm a Japanophile (I have a Japanese major and spent time on study exchange in Tokyo) and also a food obsessive, so it was so nice to find your blog. I was wondering, have you ever seen Giorgio Locatelli's tv programme? He's my favourite tv chef, and has a restaurant, Locanda Locatelli, in London. He has a wonderful exhuberance which is not at all forced for the camera, similar to Jamie Oliver in his first two Naked Chef series. Anyway, I look forward to reading more of your beautiful entries, especially your Japanese-themed ones! arigatou :)

Thanks for the book recommendations! I read Toast a while ago and really enjoyed it. Have you read "Untangling My Chopsticks"? I randomly came across it one day while looking at travel books. I've never read any book that ever made me want to eat Japanese food so badly before (of course, there are other points to the book, but that's what I remember right now)!

Robyn, I haven't read Untangling My Chopsticks but it sounds like fun! Thanks for the recommendation!

Marley, I'm not familiar with Georgio Locatelli but I will look for him on TV. And thanks for your kind words about my site :)

Hi Maki, I really enjoyed reading this post - I know exactly what you mean about the thrill of realizing other people are as obsessed with food as you are. That's how I felt when I first discovered food blogs! I had been considering buying 'Toast', and your review of it has convinced me that I definitely should. Thanks!

I also just finished reading Toast, and found it really interesting. Did you find it amazing how much emphasis was placed on sweets and lollies? No wonder children of that era had terrible teeth!
I really enjoyed it, and I love Nigel's writing. I'm currently using his book, Appetite, which is a great treatise on ingredients and eating. It suits our Australian personalities too!

Hi Maki

I love my copy of Toast! And I recently purchased Untangling my Chopsticks too, but am yet to get into it.

Anyway, I've tagged you for this cookbook meme. I hope you don't mind, but I'd be interesting to see your responses!

There are many great recipes on your website to choose, depending on your particular

Oh my goodness, you're the only person I've ever found who has read "Feast Here a While"! The story of Cod Rotterdam still makes me wheeze with laughter. And isn't it that book that has the story of the inn of the former stepfather's friend? With the people-eating bed? I love that book.

I'm not sure about the bed, but Cod Rotterdam definitely is a classic. I wonder if she's eaten sushi since then.... One of my other favorites was the story of the newly varnished table and chairs leaving brown imprints on her guests' bottoms...

Too bad the book is out of print already!

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