BIRDS CUSTARD ISLAND: A Culinary Memoir

Bird's Custard Island (Paperback)
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I highly recommend this book to all food lovers who at the same time enjoy reading biographies. View all 7 comments. Jun 26, Caroline rated it liked it Recommended to Caroline by: This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Nigel Slater writes well, and his passion for food lights up his writing. He evokes with nostalgic poignancy the foods of yesteryear. Well, some of the foods are still around today, but they seem to have been around forever.

The worst of it was that everyone Wow, this is a real trip down memory lane - lemon drops, Cadbury's chocolate MiniRolls, Battenberg cakes, Heinz Sponge Pudding The worst of it was that everyone thought I had done the food. When it came to offering the dreaded grapefruit to everyone else, I would throw my head in the air and flay my nostrils in disapproval After all, if I had done the food, they would have had prunes wrapped in bacon.

If you poured three packets in at once, it was like putting your tongue on an electric fence. This is probably why they changed the formula. About a father who blows hot and cold, and who can be horribly strict at times. About the idiocyncrasies and prejudices of life in a middle-class household. The only things that marred my pleasure in this book was the amount of grubby sex that it contained yuk , and Slater's description of a particularly unsanitary hotel kitchen where he worked yuk, yuk, yuk.

I would recommend that chapter to anyone who thinks the Health and Safety brigade are over-zealous. His description was really stomach-churning. All in all this was an enjoyable book. I didn't fall head over heels in love with it as a lot of the critics did, but I thought it was a fun and moving read View all 6 comments.

If you grew up in Britain in the 60s and 70s, you can open this book at any page and encounter a Proustian moment. Spaghetti in those long blue packets, with instructions in Italian it was the only kind of pasta you could buy. Grated Parmesan in carboard drums "Daddy, this cheese smells like sick. Steak Diane flambed at the table in smart restaurants. Aztec bars, sherbet lemons, Curly-Wurlies, licking the filling out of Walnut Whips, it's all there; Nige If you grew up in Britain in the 60s and 70s, you can open this book at any page and encounter a Proustian moment.

Aztec bars, sherbet lemons, Curly-Wurlies, licking the filling out of Walnut Whips, it's all there; Nigel's life seems defined by taste. This is a quick read, a brief, impressionistic autobiography from the age of around nine to sixteen. It's quite surprising really that even when small, Nigel longed to be a chef. His mother, who died when he was nine, hated cooking and wasn't good at it she burned the toast every day.

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The family never went out to eat, except for rare splurges at a Berni Inn. One of the saddest parts for me was that his new stepmother was an excellent cook, but while she was happy for Nigel to wash up and do chores, she would never let him share the pleasure she took in cooking, probably about the only chance they might have had to overcome their dislike of each other. When he swapped woodwork for cookery classes at school, and brought home the results, she switched her baking day to Wednesdays, the day of his class, so that she could outshine him with perfect Victoria sponges, butterfly cakes, scones There are both hilarious and touching moments here.

The Guardian summed it up perfectly: View all 5 comments.

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A deliciously evocation story of a childhood in s suburban England from one of the UK's best-loved and bestselling food writers, Nigel Slater. Apr 15, Claudia Butwell rated it really liked it Shelves: The pie was always served warm, so the filling oozed out like ripe Vacherin. View all 4 comments. As in one of the reasons why the young narrator likes Josh, their gardener: I got trolled endlessly for disliking The Lorax , well over a comments, but quite a lot got deleted by the sock puppet inventing various identities to troll me with.

Jul 12, Julie rated it it was ok. I wouldn't say this was a bad book but it was very different from my expectations. I had expected something funny and tongue-in-cheek about growing up with a mother who couldn't cook. It's actually much darker, exploring a childhood stained with death and a dysfunctional step family. There's also far too many references to various moments of sexual awakening. It's hard to see how these are relevant sometimes, and they're certainly much less enjoyable to read than the stories about food.

The main p I wouldn't say this was a bad book but it was very different from my expectations. The main problem I found was that for such a personal book, I wasn't endeared to the child. He seemed tragic and pitiful. I felt sympathetic to his loneliness and estrangement from his father, but as another reviewer puts it much better, he also comes across as a snobby, ungrateful brat and rather bitchy. I was also drawn to read this book as the first few chapters of this book are set in my home town - but this didn't help me relate to him either.

I found the book depressing, and far too laden with stories of his sexual awakening for me to recommend it to anyone. Feb 19, Kirsti rated it really liked it Shelves: This is a sad and funny memoir about growing up obsessed with food. You can't eat it because it's so hot. Then you can't eat it because it's so cold. The difference between the two is barely three minutes. When you catch porridge at the right moment it is like being wrapped in a cashmere blanket. A food so comforting and soul-warming you imagine there is no problem on earth that it could not solve.

And then, when you are halfway through the bowl, it cools. An enjoyable collection of memories linked to food. I felt sad for Nigel as a young boy. He seemed to lack so much. Gladly, he was able to find happiness as an adult. When I finished this book, I immediately began to read Orxy and Crake. I was amazed at how many similar themes the two books shared. Mother leaves at a young age. Father is too distracted with life to pay attention to young boy.

Many memories around food. I think the two books make an interesting pair. Jan 08, Sonia Gomes rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Nigel Slater did not want to want to write an autobiography of his life. These adult thoughts never crossed his mi Nigel Slater did not want to want to write an autobiography of his life. These adult thoughts never crossed his mind, why should they?

Do pre-teens and teens think of how their parents feel? Never, or very rarely. All Nigel thought of was his own terrible loneliness. Nigel disliked his stepmother intensely. She was after all the cleaning lady with no class. He remembers how classy his Mother had been when he buries his face in her fur coats, her dresses and breathes in her faint perfume still lingering, still clinging, reminding him of better, happier times much before the cleaning lady took the role of his Mother.

The stepmother was an amazing cook. She squeezed the juice of five lemons into the filling, enough to make you close one eye and shudder. The pie was always served warm, so the filling oozed out like ripe Vacherin. Both in need of affection, both competing for his affections- with food, the only thing they both did best, cook. Sadly the stepmother was lonely too and resented the fact that Nigel was a very good cook- when he swapped woodwork for cookery classes at school, and brought home the results, she switched her baking day to Wednesdays, the day of his class, so that she could outshine him with perfect Victoria sponges, butterfly cakes, scones I really enjoyed the book but thought Slater, perhaps unintentionally, revealed himself to be something of a 'nasty piece of work'.

His insinuation that his father was masturbating in the shed and his insistence that his step mother was trying to 'feed' his father to death unlikely at best were just two examples of 'memories' that reflected badly on the author. Following his fathers death he recounts the following in relation to his step mother: A sign, some said cruelly, that Dad's will had yet to be read. But then she needn't have worried, for, as anyone knows, there is nothing that quite turns an old man's attention in your direction like an offer of sex and home-made cake.

Given it's a memoir, and as such written entirely from Slater's point of view, it's unusual to feel so strongly that you are dealing with an unreliable narrator. Surprise peas, Frey Bentos pies, Angel Delight and many more are vividly evoked, the author may be petulant and bitchy but he's good literary company nonetheless. I really wanted to like this book - I really did - as I generally like Slater as a food writer and presenter. But 'Toast' left a bitter taste - not what you want from a food-based memoir. The nostalgia felt heavy-handed, the humour for instance the used condom incident felt forced and cynical and Nigel - as portrayed by himself - came across unsympathetic and a little bit self-pitying.

I also wondered at some of the memories he chose to share as, often, I felt he went well past the mark. I don I really wanted to like this book - I really did - as I generally like Slater as a food writer and presenter. I don't want to know what his dad got up to in the greenhouse and we all know teenage boys masturbate, do we need so many descriptions of specific incidents?

It felt as though Slater went out of his way to share the lewd and the tawdry memories, to offer a perverse view of childhood. Even the happy memories are offered as cold, emotionless descriptions.

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It's all very readable - you'd expect no less from Slater - but a lack of emotional depth and insight is glossed over with a sheen of sensationalism and whimsy. This is the really creative auto-biography of the TV chef Nigel Slater. It was a wonderfully written story which was a times hilarious and at times heart breaking. It was really insightful and was really interesting to the see the kind of character he was as a child especially when you then look at the TV chef now.

It also explains where his own love from food arrived and I found that really interesting to read about. I loved this structure, I seriously think it was one of the b Plot: I loved this structure, I seriously think it was one of the best ways I have seen to structure a book. Each chapter focuses on a different type of food and he tells his story as it progresses in his life with the relevant food of the time.

It was so genius and it made the story flow beautiful it was a real treasure to read. Jul 30, Jacinta Butterworth rated it liked it Shelves: The book is divided into bite-size chapters named after the foods of post-war England Arctic Rolls, tinned ham, Jammie Dodgers. That said, there were times when the food-related memories in Toast felt a little shallow and the narrative began to wander. In popular culture food is often credited with bringing people together, but in the case of Slater and his father, this was almost never the case.

Before her passing, Slater had written an essay in which he described marshmallows as being the nearest food to a kiss, so on his first night back home after the funeral, his father leaves two white marshmallows out for him on his bedside table. This is the first time Slater has ever been allowed to eat in bed.

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For me, the ending of Toast was a little dissatisfying. Did working as a cook relieve his emotional hunger? Despite this, Toast is an easy and interesting read that food lovers will appreciate for its honest voice, humour and obscenely delicious descriptions of food. Jan 10, Lauren rated it it was ok Shelves: This is not very good - it doesn't know what it wants to be, and it could've used much stronger editing throughout, as there's weird repetition even between subsequent paragraphs and there's no overriding plot, other than Slater getting a year older.

The whole "this woman is so horrible" stuff about his stepmother takes up maybe 75 total pages of the book.

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It's introduced abruptly and dropped just as abruptly, as are so many other things in the book what the hell happened with Stuart? He's a This is not very good - it doesn't know what it wants to be, and it could've used much stronger editing throughout, as there's weird repetition even between subsequent paragraphs and there's no overriding plot, other than Slater getting a year older. He's a huge disruptive force so that gives him 3 pages total?

Also, "Mummy hadn't drunk snowballs" page except she totally had, you said that's what you drank at Christmas. Slater just doesn't come across well here - but then again, no one does, not even his mother. And it's fine, if that was his intention - everyone was a little bit horrible all the way around - but it feels like he's trying to convince readers that he was justified in being a pain in the ass. That all of this was so hard for him - and I'm sure that some of it really sucked - but there's no sense of perspective at all. His descriptions of food at the end of the book were fine, if you like descriptions of food, but at the beginning they're just lazy at best.

Most of the time he's describing things like custard from a can and there's nothing wrong with Bird's custard, if that's what you want as if it needed all the heavy details and superlatives. There's no real nuance to his phrasing. There is also a lot of penis in this book - probably a mention every 25 pages or so: We grabbed each other's cocks after swimming lessons! Some dude's wanking with a piece of rare roast beef!

It feels forced and strange and is uncomfortable to read because it doesn't seem like Slater had any real reason for including those details, other than someone told him the book might sell more copies that way. Jun 03, Sutter Lee rated it really liked it. Early childhood with delightful working atypical mom, who died young. Full of surprises, suspense, colorful characters, sex, perversion, evil step-mother, clueless father who feared his son was gay.

All they had in common, other than love for the mother, was their sweet tooth. Way too much detail about candy bars. Aublyn that there is such a glut on the publishing market in Britain about memoirs fr Delicious coming-of-age story. Aublyn that there is such a glut on the publishing market in Britain about memoirs from people who've been traumatized in early childhood that there are now Painful Lives sections in many bookstores. This could be categorized as such.

Bird's Custard Island

His traumas were not of molestation, but of the coldness of his peculiar father and bizarre stepmother, and his severe isolation, lack of stimulation and mind-numbing boredom. His recall is impeccable for details, his emotions and thoughts during that period. His writing is excellent, descriptive, filled with humor, honesty. Each chapter seems to work as a short-story How he turned out to be so mentally healthy, well adjusted, successful, is astonishing.

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I'm not interested in books by chefs, as I'm not a foodie; but glad I read this. View all 15 comments. While I enjoyed the food part of this memoir, I didn't like the tone. I came to it with no prior knowledge of who Slater is, I picked it up primarily because I needed an audio book, my library had this available, and it was a memoir. Slater lost his mum early on, his brother was much older and left home soon after, which left Slater alone with his dad for awhile.

Then his dad finds a new woman with whom to share his life, and his son is resentful and angry and bitter about this still. She admitte While I enjoyed the food part of this memoir, I didn't like the tone. She admittedly sounds like no prize at all, though she's an above-average cook.

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BIRD'S CUSTARD ISLAND: A Culinary Memoir [Lucia Adams] on tufynihuru.tk * FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. This is a memoir of living and eating in. tufynihuru.tk: Bird's Custard Island: A Culinary Memoir eBook: Lucia Adams: Kindle Store.

I think this would have worked much better for me if I had read the print version, or if it had been narrated by someone other than the author. He was unable to keep a whiny, aggrieved tone out of his voice when recounting the tribulations of his adolescence. Apr 07, AbbyJ rated it it was ok. The story doesn't happen, it just goes, if that makes any sense. I guess I mean Slater starts off with a fairly strong opening sequence about his life with his mother and father but each chapter after that is just full of things that he ate. I'm wondering now if Slater did that to somehow try to convey how that food was related to his feeelings or his childhood but after a while it was like a grocery list or a la carte menu.

The movie is soooo much more charming, I suggest seeing that before pic The story doesn't happen, it just goes, if that makes any sense. The movie is soooo much more charming, I suggest seeing that before picking up this novel because then you can imagine an adorable Freddie Highmore making lemon meringue and Helena Bonham Carter smoking cigarettes and washing dishes to get you through the novel.

Nov 13, Alan rated it liked it Shelves: Textures and colours and tastes faithfully described. Later when he goes to college the sex - described as shagging - is crude and uninteresting next to the sumptuous detail of the food. In the end there was too much notebook: In the end there was too much food to take, in the end indigestion. Jul 20, Cynthia Dunn rated it really liked it Shelves: If you've read the book and even if you haven't, you must watch the movie. The acting is wonderful and the music is all Dusty Springfield. People who like food.

A very good memoir of Nigel Slater, told through food! Aug 29, Cherylle rated it it was ok. Dear Nigel in a repressed childhood, assaulted by post WW2 pretend food. I'll never eat trifle again ever. Jan 01, Paul The Uncommon Reader rated it liked it. The food of love An odd book in that you start reading it and only realise after a while what it is. But I thought it was nicely wrapped — the thing about writing an autobiography and publishing it is that you either have to just write down what happened on the assumption that everyone wants to know about your life, which works if you are Mick Jagger or Hill The food of love An odd book in that you start reading it and only realise after a while what it is.

Experiences are accompanied by tastes and associations with dishes that his mother served up or which he found out about when he first became interested in making a profession out of… food first as a cook, then as a critic He also wraps it up in a deceptive tone. Hils on Toast sounds a bit like a recipe. I wasn't immediately engaged by Toast, although I certainly related to the burnt toast in the opening line.

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Toast isn't really toast unless the whole flat is filled with thick, black, choking smoke [I have no sense of smell and a bad habit of wandering off to do something more interesting]. At first, the little chapters on food that is rather unexciting Arctic Roll, Sherry Trifle… was too much like snacks. You have one but it doesn't fill you u Oh dear! You have one but it doesn't fill you up, so perhaps you have another, but never really feel satisfied.

I must say, though, that little by little I got quite involved in the world Nigel Slater was creating or recreating and the life of this very lonely little boy, whose brothers were much older than him and whose mother died. I found some of the chapters very sad and moving such as the incontinent old auntie and the spaghetti and the game with the babysitting uncle. In fact, thinking back it is about a fortnight since I finished reading the book , my major impression is that Slater used food principally, or maybe uniquely, to communicate sad memories.

Was there any joyful food? The most I can remember is the farty noise made by the jelly and even that seems rather a sad sort of pleasure since it wasn't shared with playmates. How strange that a mother that couldn't cook and food so evocative of sadness it was almost palpable should lead Slater to the career he subsequently followed. Perhaps the fact that I don't cook and am not hugely interested in food as a subject is because my mum was and is a good cook, who makes delicious meals out of good, wholesome food and who knows what everyone likes and caters to them [I always get pate, Stilton cheese, fish and liver — all my favourites — but not all at once].

I associate many foods with happy occasions — bonfire toffee and parkin at the Guy Fawkes parties we had in our back garden, shrimps, mussels, cockles and whelks at the seaside, chips with mayonnaise on our days out in Holland. How terribly isolated this little boy was. In fact, how the family isolated itself with its airs and graces and notions of appropriate and inappropriate foods.

I suppose the "better" food they ate like grilled grapefruit!!! In fact, though I love things like lobster and champagne, some of the best foods are much plainer and more plebian — faggots, rabbit stew, Yorkshire pudding with treacle for afters. I thought the book was original and was a good attempt at recreating a past time which was both communal and personal. I was surprised by some of the foods that were obviously commonplace at the time but I had completely forgotten.

I don't think I ever ate any, but I can certainly recall them, perhaps from advertisements. I seem to think they were freeze dried or dehydrated? My mum says you can still get it, though I have never tasted it because it was made with milk. I thought Slater was quite successful in creating an atmosphere of the past, though there were one or two jarring moments. The book was so dependent on its readers relating to its particular time frame that I think it risks being almost inaccessible to younger readers.

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