The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Toast, by Nigel Slater

Let’s see … bad food, sexual ambiguity, weak stomachs, cold parents? Yes, it must be a memoir of a British boyhood!

You know you’re in trouble when you read the author’s preface to the American edition and he expresses concern that we won’t understand it. And you know you’re in trouble when the 2-page British-to-American glossary at the back doesn’t even scratch the surface. Slater was right when he thought we might not get it. At least I didn’t get it. I recently said of a Russian novel that it shouldn’t have been translated. This book is in English, and yet I’m not sure it should have been published in the States. There are so many brands and food terms that aren’t obvious. I guess this is a demonstration of how regionalism remains a factor in food preferences and the way we talk about food.

Okay, I’m sounding cranky, sorry. There were some amusing vignettes, like when Slater’s family tried the radically different, alarmingly innovative dish called … spaghetti bolognese. However, after Slater’s beloved mother dies and his father takes up with the despicable Mrs. Potter, the silver lining is that Mrs. Potter can cook. We see Slater’s eyes open to the possibilities of good food made well.

But overall, this book was completely wasted on me. I’ve read lots of British novels and memoirs, so it’s not as if I’m unfamiliar with the culture, but this book was over the top. For that reason, I’m not going to recommend for or against it.

As far as animals go, an unnamed family dog comes to no harm. Slater reveals himself to be one of those nasty little children who tore flies apart, and there is an upsetting but brief episode in which two Jack Russell terriers get hold of his pet rabbit. So I’m going to declare this book MOSTLY SAFE for animal lovers, though if you’re a sensitive person in general, you probably won’t enjoy this book for the descriptions of the author’s constant barfing. Bon appetit!

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March 4, 2009 - Posted by | animals, Book Reviews, food |

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