The founder gives a bizarre interview on Bloomberg
Heart Attack Grill's founder continues his stance that he's doing good for the world.
Heart Attack Grill's founder Jon Basso gave an interview with Bloomberg to emphasize that people should be brown-bagging it instead of eating out. To emphasize his point? He brings in the cremated remains of one of his best customers, who died of a heart attack at his restaurant.
"I'm putting the bag clearly on the table. I wish Burger King, McDonald's, everyone else would do the same," Basso says.
His philosophy, as he's noted before, is to be as honest about the food he's serving as possible. "I am probasbly the only restaurateur in the entire world who is unapologetically telling you that my food is bad for you, that it will kill you, that you should stay away from it. The better move is to simply go to restaurants less, not to try to mask what you're really doing," Basso said.
This is the guy who is selling burgers called the Quadruple Bypass Burger, and who claims he lives with a clear conscience because, "I make good money, joking about how bad my food is, but at least I'm honest... when the CEO of McDonald's says well we're going to change course, he's going straight to the bank." Watch the interview below.
Heart Attack Grill Restaurant: Serving 10,000 Calories on Your Platter!
The menu has a range of hamburgers including Bypass Burgers that can be of single, double, triple, quadruple, quintuple, sextuple, septuple and octuple sizes. The menu also includes Flatliner Fries and the Coronary Dog, alcohol, Butterfat Milkshakes, Lucky Strike no filter cigarettes, full sugar Cola and candy cigarettes for the kids. As per the restaurant's rule, if any customer fails to finish off the portion s/he has ordered, they get 'brutal' spankings publicly delivered by one of the nursing staff.
The high content of fat in the hamburgers served has a whopping 10,000 calories in it, 9,983 to be precise. The Quadruple burger with so many calories has been identified as one of the worst junk foods as it contains four half-pound beef patties, 20 strips of bacon, eight slices of American cheese, one whole tomato and half an onion served in a bun. The restaurant also has a ridiculously strange idea of providing unlimited free food to all 'patients' weighing over 350 pounds.
Heart Attack Grill Restaurant: Synonymous to Controversies
While it is a very popular eatery in Vegas, it has always been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The restaurant barely cares about the amount of risk it is offering to its customers. It is believed that there are customers who fell sick after consuming huge calorie content burgers. But it doesn't stop the founder to cut off on selling such foods. Recently, the restaurant was in the news for suing a new competitor at bay, known as Heart Attack Shack that opened in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the month of February this year the reason being, founder Jon thinks that the Shack's owners are trying to fool customers into thinking the two restaurants are the same. Amidst all the controversies, the restaurant has managed well and people do enjoy going there. The restaurant is still in operation and continues to grow with the negative publicity it receives.
We are sure you would love to see these huge burgers, if not eat them. Do tell us if you would be interested in eating these massive bombs with so many calories?
10 Totally Bizarre Restaurants
The prospect of a fine dining experience brings to mind a couple of things: A polite and efficient staff, the ambiance - contained and constrained, an elegant plate setting and more importantly the real hero, food. Our expectations are rising perhaps because of our growing sophistication, our varied palate or simply because we've started to experience more. However, the one criteria that is yet to make it to the top of this list is the concept of themed restaurants. And by that I don't mean lavender scented, marble floored or rustic themes but bold, out-of-the-box and crazy ones. I've listed the top 10 themed restaurants around the world, the ones that'll make you gasp in shock, horror and awe. These restaurants are completely outlandish but have managed to knit together a unique theme with all its logistical nuts and bolts along with good quality food, service and ambiance. Toilet Restaurant, Taiwan and Hong Kong Hoping for a crappy dining experience? You've come to the right place. This three floor bathroom-themed restaurant is so popular it's got 12 chains all over the world. It's swanky interiors are a refreshing treat for sore eyes: Silver and grey shower-heads look down from the ceiling while faeces-shaped lights brighten up the room. Customers sit on toilet seats and eat out of a bed-pan or a toilet shaped container.
Cannibalistic Restaurant, Japan
Heart Attack Grill, Las Vegas
The grill's founder has something special to say to his customers - "Don't come to my restaurant, it is bad for you and will kill you." Flatline fries, Bypass Burger, Coronary Hot Dog are only some of the many bad-boy calorie loaded items from an absurd menu. The Heart Attack Grill follows a strict 'no green' policy which means you won't find any lettuce, pickles or other green and somewhat healthy ingredients in your food. Their hero dish, a 10,000 calorie 'Quadruple Bypass Burger' only reinforces the founder's warning and the fact that this food might actually kill you! The HA Grill is extremely liberal with the amount of cheese and bacon it slathers over its behemoth of meaty burger and makes sure you walk out feeling absolutely unhealthy. As you walk into the door of this restaurant you're welcomed by waitresses dressed as nurses with big smiles and big hair. They offer you an arm band and a hospital gown which you must sport through your meal.
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives Ithaa which means 'mother of pearl' is an underwater restaurant located 16 feet below water. This stunning restaurant gives a panoramic view of the surrounding reef, an elegant six course European menu and is a mecca for style connoisseurs.
Dinner in the Sky, Locations worldwide A table for 22 people is suspended 50 meters into the air offers a breathtaking experience. A fine chef stands aboard with his crew as customers sit buckled to their seats awaiting a delicious meal.
Safe House, Wisconsin This restaurant gives us yet another OMG moment. Wired magazine called this spy-themed restaurant "the Hippest Place on the Planet" and for good reason. A customer can't just walk in. He needs to know the secret code or else as per the bouncer's directions he must do the chicken dance, hoola hoop or anything that amuses bar patrons. Once the customer is seated he receives a mystery and needs to stroll through the Safe House in order to solve it. He could encounter a plethora of James Bond items, a mechanical puzzle or receive instructions in a secret phone booth. This eclectic and crazy set-up is one of the most popular tourist attractions and has been voted so by many local and national magazines. Villa Escudero Waterfalls Restaurant, Philippines This amazing restaurant is at the foot of a magnificent waterfall. Roll up your pants or sport those shorts and experience the thrills of ice-cold water running past your feet.
Ninja, New York, New York This restaurant takes after an 18th century Japanese village and has servers dressed as masked ninjas that bump up the theatricality of the food. Two different ninjas welcome you into the restaurant: one offers a more simple and direct path while the other offers a dark and dangerous one. They've got enough antics up their sleeve to keep customers entertained the entire night!
Dicks Last Resort, Las Vegas and Chicago This infamous restaurant and bar is known for its absolutely obnoxious staff. According to their website, " Dick is an ornery, politically incorrect curmudgeon who dishes out good grub, cold booze, and heaping helpings of sarcasm." Along with messy ribs, catfish and crab legs you get a rude and funny, offensive and amusing restaurant staff.
‘7 Deadly Sins’ review: Morgan Spurlock’s latest goes to extremes
Part of documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock’s method has long been to insert himself into the story -- it’s served him well from his debut feature, “Super Size Me,” a decade ago right up to his recent CNN series, “Inside Man.” But for his new seven-episode series on Showtime, “7 Deadly Sins,” which begins Thursday, the never camera-shy Spurlock has restricted his role to that of a simple introductory host, appearing Alfred Hitchcock-like in a series of campy wrap-around segments. Based on the subject matter, that decision may have been for the good of his own health.
“7 Deadly Sins” centers each of its episodes on one of Christianity’s famous cardinal sins: gluttony, envy, lust, wrath, pride, greed and sloth. And in true pay-cable fashion, Spurlock and co-creator Jeremy Chilnick are interested in nothing less than the most extreme and shocking cases.
For example, the episode on lust features Exotic Erotics, a company that creates life-casted sex toys molded from real animal genitalia, including from horses and dogs, and elephant trunks and giraffe tongues. The gluttony episode profiles the founder of the notorious Heart Attack Grill, a Las Vegas restaurant committed to creating coronary distress in anyone who chooses to eat its sloppy Bypass Burgers and lard-saturated French fries. Spurlock and company don’t shy away from gratuitous shots of desperately unhealthy-looking people lovingly ingesting these disgusting-looking creations, but thankfully they focus the sex toy segment on the creation and not the enjoyment of the items.
Still, this isn’t a series to watch with the family.
But as squirm-inducing as some of the segments can be, the series doesn’t appear interested in creating a sense of lurid wish fulfillment. Despite artful photography and a penchant for loving slow-motion shots, these vices, as described both by those who enjoy and provide them, become demystified through the explaining. It’s the Forbidden Fruit chopped and diced and turned into a non-threatening fruit salad.
That prostitute at the brothel? Turns out she’s a grandmother of nine. That company that makes the kind of silicone female skin suits that would make “The Silence of the Lamb’s” Buffalo Bill jealous? It’s a family business run by a widow and her two sons.
The participants all seem earnest in their predilections, and by allowing them to tell their own tales, the production team presents them all in a refreshingly non-judgmental light. (Except for Heart Attack Grill founder Jon Basso, who seems intent on making himself a boogeyman for the obese.)
However, occasionally the interviewees will let slip a statement that almost begs for a more extensive exploration or an outside perspective. The son of the deceased founder of the female skin suit company admits he doesn’t want to simply carry on his father’s legacy but to “crush” him. And Basso charts his transformation from fitness freak to purveyor of deadly foods but has a relationship with his customers that would best be described by a psychologist.
Curiously, many of the tales look at the business side of sin. No matter the desire, there’s always money to be made. Which suggests that perhaps no matter how we comport ourselves, greed is the most inescapable sin of all.
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'There's not a cleanse, a detox, a 'superfood' on the planet that will give you lasting results.'
She promises that her programme is one that you will only ever need to follow once and that will keep the weight off for good.
Louise's 'Beloved Omelette' is packed with lean protein such as chicken and smoked salmon as well as spring onions and spinach
Louise says you can even make healthy versions of delicious Oreo biscuits by sandwiching a banana slice and hazelnut butter between two oatcakes
How to keep weight off permanently
The four pillars of the Louise Parker Method:
Assume nothing but success
Visualise your goal. It needs to be so clear you can literally feel it
Keep positive, inspiring company
Eat three meals and two snacks a day
Balance each meal with all the necessary macronutriants: these include proteins, fat and carbs that are low in GI
Stay well hydrated - Sip, sip sip aiming for two litres of water a day
Be prepared when you're on the go
Declutter your surroundings
Digital detox after 9pm every night
Take a 'brain-nap' for 20 minutes a day
Make time for simple pleasures every single day
Build the habit of exercise
Weave activity into your everyday with a minimum of 10,000 steps a day
Fads don't work, gimmicks are gimmicks and extremes don't last.
Consistency is a Louise Parker mantra
Louise recommends eating salads like her 'Summer Feta Salad' for lunch which contains chunks of watermelon, cucumber, feta, mint, lime juice and pine nuts tossed together
Louise recommends starting every day with a healthy and nutritious breakfast such as her 'Bejewelled pomegranate and pistachio bircher' - a bircher topped with pomegranate seeds and pistachio nuts
An ideal daily meal plan
Breakfast: Bejewelled pomegranate & pistachio bircher
Snack: Apple and almond butter doughnuts
Snack: Nectarine and prosciutto skewers
Evening meal: Sophie's sausage & smashing beans
Her Louise Parker Method uses a simple set of principles that re-sets your lifestyle and gets you the body you want, permanently and effortlessly.
She said: 'It's a real-life solution to permanent weight loss and optimum health while allowing all the pleasures of life – in moderation – to keep you sane and healthy. It is not about calorie counting or deprivation.'
She added: 'Don't think of this as a bootcamp or a diet. It is the start to a new normal with consistency at the heart of it.
'During my programmes, I teach clients to get the best possible fat-burning results, in a way that's so sustainable that our style of eating is going to become a habit.
You can still have treats on the Louise Parker method, she says. The Figure Magician has a recipe for Apple Butter Doughtnuts which are round slices of a cored apple topped with almond butter and flaked almonds sandwiched together
A healthy but delicious snack you can treat yourself to is skewers of watermelon and strawberries with a handful of roasted nuts
'I want you to love the meals and foods you choose. Loving flavour is one of the key ways to ensure our style of nutrition lasts.
'This doesn't mean that it has to be complicated and many of my recipes have less than eight ingredients and can be prepared in less than 15 minutes.
'Buy the best ingredients you can as this makes such a difference to the end taste and make sure you always have lots of herbs, seasoning and condiments in your cupboards at home to experiment with.'
Lunch recipe: Louise's lovely lentils
Louise includes her Louise's Lovely Lentils dish as an ideal lunch choice for her one-week eating plan
75g (2¾oz) feta cheese, cubed
¼ cucumber, deseeded and sliced
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
Cut the watermelon into chunks, then add the cubed feta, cucumber and mint.
Dress with the lime juice and sprinkle with the pine nuts.
Louise recommends eating two snacks a day on her method. One of them can be these Nectarine and Prosciutto Skewers. Take one ripe nectarine and four prosciutto strips, cut the fruit into quarters and wrap each quarter with a slice of prosciutto
How to 'build' your meals for weight loss
All your meals consist of low glycemic index (GI foods). A core part of the method is to stabilise your blood sugar levels and control your insulin levels. To do this it is essential we only eat foods that are low on the GI scale.
'I want your body to be regularly fed all the main nutrients it needs – some low GI carbs for gentle energy release, protein to manage appetite and build and repair your muscles, essential fats for optimum health and fibre for healthy bowels and insulin control,' reveals Louise.
By combining each of these macronutrients into every meal and snack, we also stabilise blood sugar levels.
Avoiding spikes in blood sugar level is our primary aim and keeping your blood sugar levels stable keeps you in the 'fat burning zone'. Your appetite is regulated, making the programme so easy to adhere to.
Simply combine one item from each macronutrient: protein, a low Gi carb and a dose of healthy fat. It's the balance that makes the method so beautifully simple to follow.
Dinner recipe: Sophie's sausage and smashing beans
Yes, you can have sausages on the plan! Louise says aim to buy pork sausages with less than 20 per cent fat per 100g (3½oz), or, for an even leaner alternative, try chicken, venison or vegetarian sausages
One of my favourite comfort food meals, this is hardly a recipe at all. Buy the best sausages you can afford, with the highest meat content.
The lemony mash works beautifully with succulent pork sausages. Do vary the flavours of the smashed beans, by using garlic and spinach or even chilli and lime, if you like.
Good handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
400g (14oz) can butter beans, drained and rinsed
2 × 400g (14oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon good olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon, plus extra to taste and lemon wedges to serve
Sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the grill to medium.
Grill the sausages for 15–20 minutes, turning occasionally, until brown all over.
Meanwhile, in a shallow pan, heat the olive oil and fry the chard for 2 minutes, adding the garlic and thyme for the last 30 seconds. Set aside.
Add the beans to a pan and gently heat through over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and roughly smash the beans, lemon juice, salt and pepper together with a fork. Mix in the wilted chard and adjust the salt, lemon juice or pepper to taste.
Remove the sausages from the grill and drain on kitchen paper. Divide between plates with good dollops of the smashed beans.
Sprinkle with the parsley, add a little lemon zest and serve with a lemon wedge on the side.
You can even have a take on an ice cream sundae while dieting! Louise's 'Anydae Sundae' combines yoghurt, milk, vanilla paste, sweetener, blueberries, raspberries and passion fruit juice as well as roasted pumpkin seeds for a crunchy topping
Louise's top weight-loss tips
- It is essential that you never skip breakfast. Remember that we are not only shedding your body-fat but teaching you simple eating strategies that create 'metabolic uplift'. Try preparing vanilla overnight oats which will last you three days and you can decorate and flavour up in so many gorgeous ways.
- Many of our recipes take less than eight minutes to prepare.
- Spend 10 minutes on a Sunday roughly planning your meals and you'll save on waste and be more mindful about what you eat – it'll pay back tenfold.
- Commit your workouts to your diary as you would an important meeting – once you get the habit of 'paying your daily rent' of a little exercise a day, it'll soon become a habit.
- Lunchtime and evening meals can be interchanged, and don't have to be salads. The main thing is to ensure you've a delicate dose of protein at every meal – and dishes on the method range from soups, salads, classic comfort food to many meals you really wouldn't expect to eat whilst losing weight – such as bacon butties.
- During the week, double up when cooking your evening meal so you can have cold meat or fish and plenty of vegetables to combine with your salad, saving you time.
- Learn how to eat on the go and in restaurants – the method can be followed whether you're grabbing something off the high street in a hurry or eating in restaurants or planes – don't think you have to be a slave to the kitchen.
- Batch cook at least one meal – a soup, a ragu, or a casserole – a week and throw it in the freezer so that you've always got an 'on method' meal ready to go on those nights you come home tired and tempted to dial Deliveroo.
- Prepare snacks in advance and have them on you at all times. Try roasting nuts in whipped egg white and roasting with fresh herbs or spices or cinnamon and cocoa if you've a sweet tooth.
- It's a good idea to shop twice per week so you have plenty of fresh produce – even better have it delivered.
- It is fine to pan fry food quickly with a little olive oil and water to steam them – don't be afraid of using fat.
- Stick to the formula of three main meals and two snacks a day, evenly spacing your meals so that you never feel hungry and achieve hormonal balance.
- Watch your fruit intake – we stick to about three portions per day of lower Gi fruit.
- Beware of what we refer to as 'organically overweight' food. Learn to read the labels – as many foods posing as 'healthy' are often laden hidden sugars and calories. Even if the sugar source is natural, if your body doesn't need it, the sugars will be sent to fat storage.
For more information on Louise’s programmes and method go to louiseparker.uk.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @figuremagician.
Check Louise’s Instagram @figuremagician from 26 June for week two’s tips.
Both books, The Louise Parker MetodLean for Life and Lean for Life: The Cookbook, are out now.
Heart Attack Grill takes its latest victim
Heart Attack Grill lives up to its name again this week when a woman collapsed in their Las Vegas restaurant. This marks the second person to fall victim to their horrifically caloric food in less than a year.
We told you so
We hate to say I told you so, but we told you so, more than once. A woman in her 40s collapsed while dining on the restaurant’s Triple Bypass Burger this week. She was also smoking a cigarette and drinking a margarita. There&rsquos nothing like a little biological karma to get you to start taking care of yourself. The woman is currently recovering.
This comes just two months after a man collapsed in the location and just a year after their 29-year old spokesperson died. The spokesman weighed in at 575 pounds.
Read about the last man who collapsed at Heart Attack Grill >>
Owner Jon Basso prides himself on being honest and having clear warnings posted all over the restaurant. In an interview with the LA Times, he said &ldquoWe attract an avant-garde clientele — thrill seekers, risk takers.&rdquo He says the woman got exactly what she asked for, but he wishes her a full recovery.
Eat at your own risk
Business is still booming for the admittedly unhealthy restaurant despite the negative press associated with the establishment. In a restaurant where the owner is dressed as a cardiologist and the menu items are named after serious medical conditions, it seems as if the warnings are more than just a pun. If you value your health, you may want to think twice before dining on 10,000 calorie burgers.
Should Heart Attack Grill be held liable? >>
If risk taking is what you are craving, we suggest sky diving or swimming with sharks. In fact, even running in traffic might be better for your health. But if massive coronary failure is on your bucket list, by all means stop in for a burger and don&rsquot forget to order the fries that are cooked in pure lard.
Heart Attack Grill strikes again? Owner calls diners ‘risk-takers’
The Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas would appear to have lived up to its reputation for the second time in as many months: On Saturday, a woman collapsed at the restaurant known for gleefully serving up artery-clogging entrees.
Owner Jon Basso said Monday that he wishes the customer a swift and full recovery. But, he added, the woman got exactly what she asked for: a brush with death.
“We attract an avant-garde clientele -- thrill seekers, risk takers,” he told the Los Angeles Times, adding that his restaurant is a “bad for you but fun” restaurant that “attracts people who don’t really take good care of their health.”
The condition of the woman was not immediately known she was wheeled out of the restaurant by paramedics.
She had been downing a margarita and smoking a cigarette before she was stricken, Basso said.
“She was eating, drinking, smoking, laughing, dancing, having fun,” Basso said of the restaurant-goer, who fell unconscious Saturday night. “But when you treat your body like that day in and day out, eventually your body is going to give out.”
The Heart Attack Grill is a hospital-themed restaurant that belly laughs at doctors’ orders to steer clear of excessively caloric and fatty meals.
Waitresses wear skin-tight nurses’ uniforms, and Basso dresses as the cardiologist on staff, complete with doctor’s coat and stethoscope. Diners are called patients. And on the menu: “Flatliner” fries cooked in lard, shakes made with pure cream, and four flavors of “bypass” burgers, as in single, double, triple or quadruple bypass.
The Quadruple Bypass Burger can top 10,000 calories. Basso said the Guinness World Records book contacted him Friday to say that the burger was being crowned the most caloric sandwich on Earth.
The restaurant also offers free meals to people weighing more than 350 pounds.
The popular restaurant was in the news in mid-February when a man fell ill while eating a “Triple Bypass Burger” and had to be wheeled out of the restaurant by emergency workers. (Real ones, not staffers playing dress up.)
Basso, who calls himself a “board-certified burgerologist” working on the front lines to rid the world of anorexia and sobriety, says he doesn’t really worry about liability issues or one of his “patients” suing him.
“Unlike cigarettes, I have had warnings labels since Day 1 when we opened in 2005 telling people how bad our food is for you. I think that skirts any liability we might have.”
As for his critics, Basso says that the restaurant says more about the diners than it does about the ownership. He said he is posting signs throughout the restaurant promoting the new spot in the Guinness World Records book, and he makes no secret of the burger’s eye-popping calorie count. “So what is it about someone who sees that sign and sees that this burger has 9,993 calories in it, and that person says ‘I want one of those.’”
“I tell you, we attract that very bleeding edge, that avant-garde of risk takers.”
Hardee's Monster Thickburger
At first sight, this gargantuan burger may seem appropriate only for a boa constrictor or some other animal that can dislocate its jaws to consume it.
The burger contains two 1/3-pound patties of beef, four strips of bacon, three slices of gooey cheese, and mayonnaise on a buttered sesame seed bun. That adds up to 1,400 calories, 100 grams of fat (and more than 30 grams of saturated fat), 3,000 mg of sodium, and 210 mg of cholesterol. Although Hardee's scores points by going the extra mile with that buttered bun, they skimp on the saturated-fat-laden palm oil.
Also, you'd likely need to burn a few calories to find a Hardee's restaurant in your city. Otherwise, this burger would have topped the heart attack food list.
Man Actually Has a Heart Attack at the Heart Attack Grill
Well, this is sad: a man had an actual, real heart attack at the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas. The restaurant chain is known for its medical theme — servers dress up and are referred to as nurses — and its astronomically high calorie dishes. (Their slogan is "Taste Worth Dying For.") According to the restaurant's owner Jon Basso, there have been "a ‘variety of incidents' in the past, but this is the first full-scale coronary that happened in his restaurant."
Given that the man is as-yet unnamed, there is a chance that this is an (incredibly sad and evil) stunt. Apparently diners thought so and were taking photos, but Basso says "Even with our own morbid sense of humor, we would never pull a stunt like that." The local news report below does indulge itself a little bit, referring to Basso as "Doctor Jon" yet acknowledging, "Despite the clinical atmosphere, Basso is not actually a medical doctor, so he called 911." Basso "has heard" the man survived.
'Toast': Boy Meets Grill
TOAST The Story of a Boy's Hunger. By Nigel Slater. 238 pp. Gotham Books. $25.
Nigel Slater's memoir begins with his mother -- a hapless and hopeless cook -- scraping the charred edges of a piece of toast out the kitchen window. All is not well in the Slater household.
But then, what would a memoir by a British food writer be if it weren't filled with grim tinned puddings and hefty portions of bangers and mash? Traditional British food is anything but pretentious. While the French fashioned food into poetry, their neighbors up north kept it honest with bluntly named foods like jam tarts, deviled kidneys and Cadbury's Flakes.
Slater is 9 in the opening chapter, growing up in a middle-class family in Wolverhampton, and we follow him until he arrives, nearly penniless after failing his cooking school exams, in London, where he lands a job at the Savoy Grill.
Following the burned toast incident, Slater observes: "It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you. People's failings, even major ones such as when they make you wear short trousers to school, fall into insignificance as your teeth break through the rough, toasted crust and sink into the doughy cushion of white bread underneath." But mostly, there's not a lot of love going around in the Slater family.
Slater spends much of his time alone, driven into isolation by parents who mystify him. His father, a successful businessman, is dark and unpredictable, wary of his frail son. His mother is present but aloof. Slater struggles, meanwhile, to understand his sexual identity, which is challenged at various times by an overly snuggly uncle, a nurturing but often nude gardener and an aggressive teenage girlfriend.
"Toast" was a great success in England, where it was on best-seller lists for several months. But Slater is a known quantity there he's written a number of successful cookbooks, had a food column in London's Observer and was the host of a television show. He faces a different crowd in America, one not familiar with sweets like jammie dodgers and fairy drops, which sound to an American more like characters in a bedtime story. (There is a glossary at the back for everything from "mivvi" -- an ice cream pop -- to "cling film," what we call plastic wrap.)
Slater tells his story in vignettes, most of them centered around a foodstuff, like cream soda and walnut whips. "Tinned Raspberries" evoke a day shortly after his mother dies, when Slater spills the syrup on the living room carpet, eliciting a violent rage from his father. "Radishes" brings the fit and friendly gardener into play.
By organizing the book this way, Slater shows how many people's memories -- whether or not they are food lovers -- are inextricably tied to the food they eat, and how many pivotal events (funerals, birthdays, family arguments, celebrations) involve eating.
Slater delights in foods like Butterscotch Flavor Angel Delight, a pudding mix, which he calls magic: "Magic in the way it seemed to thicken further once you put it in your mouth. Magic in what seemed like a mean portion in the bowl became almost too much of a good thing in the mouth. Magic in the way that it managed to taste of both sugar and soap at the same time." He carefully observes ham being sliced from the bone at the butcher. "No wibbly-wobbly jelly here," he writes. "Just thin, cool, pink ham, soft as a baby's tummy." He is a finicky eater as a boy, detesting two of the most elemental ingredients, milk and eggs, both of which make him vomit. The vomiting is carefully described.
Food acts as a vehicle for unity and division. His dislike of eggs is roughly overborne by his father, who believes that eggs will make his delicate son strong. The issue soon grows beyond the flavor eventually, it becomes clear that Slater is gay, and his father is homophobic.
Because the story is told in the voice of an adolescent, it can be elliptical. Slater's mother begins taking naps one day, and then she is dead. Later his father dies on a tennis court, presumably from a heart attack brought on by the rich food he's been eating with his second wife, but the cause of death is never spelled out.
Instead, Slater pours details into the food. You learn that middle-class families like the Slaters did not eat crisps (potato chips), evaporated milk, bread that comes in plastic bags or HP sauce -- all things considered beneath them. You learn that today's rarefied Aga stove was a fixture in middle-class kitchens, and that in provincial England in the 1960's, there were mobile grocers and butchers.
Occasionally, the story slows down or wanders off in a strained effort, it seems, to make all of his important food memories tie into the narrative. A chapter called "Irish Stew" is there only to make the point -- a good one, though tangential -- that no matter what you put in a pressure cooker, it all ends up tasting like Irish stew. But brief detours like this hardly detract from a sensitive portrait of a lonely childhood.