Lemon meringue pie should never be used as a weapon, don’t you agree? This wedge of sunshine, with its charred marshmallowy dome on a sweetly soured lemon curd, shouldn’t be a symbolic wedge between a child, his father, and a step-mother. But that’s what Toast is—a movie about the trials of a child infatuated by food, starved for affection, his road to self-discovery and pie.
It’s the 1960’s in the middle of England where we find Nigel Slater, our child hero, surrounded by a garden full of vegetables (tended by a handsome gardener) but whose mother can barely boil a can of beans (with beans still in the can, no less). His sweet mum’s ruined dinners are saved by her Plan B—buttered toast—and we watch the family quietly savor every buttery bite.
Nigel’s desire for real food has him hiding under the covers of his bed at night making suspicious noises. Caught by his father, who thinks something else is going on under those covers, we find Nigel peeping at nothing more nefarious than a cookery book (as they call them in England).
Toast is a memoir of Nigel Slater, an English food writer, columnist and TV host, that premiered in Denver over a week ago. In the movie, we experience the sadness of his mother’s death, the overt contempt by his father, and the competition he feels when the chain-smoking Mrs. Potter arrives. Mrs. Potter, the ‘housekeeper,’ has garnered the much-wanted affection of his father and she uses food as her trump card over Nigel.
The food wars begin.
Nigel risks humility by signing up for the Wednesday home economics class at school. Every Wednesday he brings home his triumphant creations to the chagrin of Mrs. Potter. Competition heats up as more and more food is created and Nigel’s father’s waistline expands.
Director: SJ Clarkson
Cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Ken Stott, Freddie Highmore, Victoria Hamilton
The real Nigel Slator has authored many books. Below is a recipe from his recent cookery book Tender, Volume 1. We are promised Nigel’s killer lemon meringue pie recipe in the coming weeks and we’ll post it as soon as it arrives. In the meantime, here’s a taste of Nigel:
Salmon, spinach and lemon salad
“There is no fish I can think of that doesn’t work with spinach. But where creamed spinach seems perfectly fine with a steak of halibut or haddock, the richer, oily fish such as salmon are more appropriately matched to the leaves in a simpler state.
A mouthful of lemon salad, at once breathtakingly sharp, is more than at home on the same fork as a piece of salmon or a bunch of meltingly soft spinach. Bring all three together and you have a dish of extraordinary vitality.
Enough for 2
salmon – a 225–250g piece of fish per person
spinach – 500g
For the salad:
lemons – 2
caster sugar – 2 teaspoons
olive oil – 2 tablespoons
flat-leaf parsley – a small bunch
capers – a heaped tablespoon
Brush the salmon on both sides with olive oil, then season with salt. Get a non-stick frying pan hot, then place the fish skin-side down in the pan. Leave, at a moderate heat, for four or five minutes until the skin has crisped. Turn, cover with a lid and leave for a further five minutes or so, until the fish is lightly cooked through to the centre.
Meanwhile, make the salad by cutting away the skin and white pith from the lemons with a sharp knife and slicing the lemons thinly. Put them into a mixing bowl with the sugar, olive oil and a good handful of parsley leaves, left whole. Add the capers and toss the salad gently. Leave for a few minutes, during which time the sharpness of the lemon will mellow a little.
Wash the spinach thoroughly, then steam in a lidded pan for a minute or two till tender. Drain.
Put the lemon salad and the spinach on warm plates and slide on the salmon.”
English Translation: “Caster” sugar is known as ‘super fine’ sugar in the U.S. It dissolves faster than typical sugar, but ordinary sugar will work.
Patricia Bainter is a blogger and writer for 303magazine. She trained at Le Cordon Bleu London and shares her culinary musings, tips and recipes at her own website ThePatricianPalette.com.