Toast

Toast

I’m waiting for the “ding”— that polite, almost British way that my trusty little Toaster Oven has of saying, “Yes, we’re ready.” The rowdy, overeager “kerchunk-sprang” and obtrusive popping slots of my little guy’s countertop rival isn’t for us. No, just a lovely, succinct “ding” signaling near-perfection.

But now I wait.

I’m not very good at waiting. I peer through the hazy, glass-fronted door to see how things are coming along in there, and to catch a whiff of that bready, buttery, slightly nutty smell of almost-ready. Comfort and sustenance from an inanimate object. I wait.

I love toast.

I particularly love toast prepared in A Very Specific Way. Properly made toast begins with a good, solid slice of a fairly yeasty bread made by a baker who actually likes to make bread. Then it’s run through the Toaster Oven once, dabbed generously with pats of salted butter, then run through again to melt the butter and brown the edges. That’s it. Simple. Elegant. Perfect. Any questions on this?

I view any deviations from A Very Specific Way as failures of will. And herein lies a truth: I suspect that we all, each one of us, have a very clear idea about how to prepare toast and consider any other method as just plain wrong.

I’m married to a very smart woman with degrees in philosophy and architecture. And yet, despite 20-some years of coaching, mentoring, and pleading, she remains somehow inept in this regard. Her “recipe” involves jabbing bits of refrigerator-hardened butter onto lukewarm, just-toasted bread, then rummaging around for some jam to slather on as a topping. The butter never melts. Ever. I always thank her for the effort and then stare off thoughtfully, wondering about this discrepancy.

When our sons were young, the boys and I would sit on the couch while I read to them from a book called Bread and Jam for Frances, which was about a little badger who loved only toast. The moral had something to do with the need for variety in one’s diet, but we didn’t much care about that. What we cared about was that at the end of the story, we’d stand up from the couch in unison and yell at the top of our lungs, “Let’s make toast!” I’m proud to say that they’ve grown to be two young men who know how to make a really fine piece of toast. They use a Toaster Oven. Just like their old man.

The Toaster Oven arrived on the scene sometime in the mid-’60s and has been a mainstay of wedding gift registries—and my morning routine—ever since. It’s flexible, space efficient, and perfect not just for toasting but for properly melting butter onto your toast. That’s why they call ’em “Toaster Ovens”—they make damn fine toast. Still, the appliance is sort of like a little utility infielder for the kitchen, because if you’re going to use the bench space anyway, why not use it for more than one purpose? Besides, if you try to melt butter onto your toast using a regular toaster, sooner or later you’ll make a helluva mess—and probably have a little more excitement in the kitchen than you’d planned.

On ratty-feeling days, again when the kids were little, I’d make cinnamon toast by sprinkling a little sugar and cinnamon over the butter for that second run through the Toaster Oven. I did this to remind them that I was not only sometimes unpredictable, but handy to have around.

I try to remind my wife of this from time to time, too. As such, I have to admit that there may—I said may—be other ways to make toast. I’ve sautéed slices of bread in duck fat and have been appropriately dazzled. I’m always amazed by just how tasty it is to grind a garlic clove onto a slice of unbuttered toast and then smother it with olive oil, even though that seems like cheating given that garlic and olive oil would make a doorstop tasty. Even basic toast, when topped with cooked-just-right-and-buttered fresh spring asparagus, a chopped hard-boiled egg, some pepper, and a few largish slivers of Parmesan cheese, accompanied by a chilled, cheap white wine, says to my wife that I really love her. Even if she can’t make toast. Works almost every time.

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

Comments

  1. I love the fact that you have such a passion for toast. My all time favorite way to eat it is toasted rather dark but not burned. I like to call it a robust brown. Smother it in a salted butter and then a quick dunk into hot chocolate with a melting homemade marshmallow barrier sealing the cups entry. My oh my…

    1. “oh my” she said demurely, after drowning her her toast steaming chocolate and marshmallow.
      There’s a 19th century potboiler of a novel lurking in here somewhere…
      I also liked “robust”
      Thanks Penny. Great note.

  2. Okay, I’m late to the party here. (Blame it on back-to-back meetings.) A story: When I was small, about five or six, my dad had to work late one night, so my mom and I played beauty parlor. (Yes, I know, cliche.) As I sat perched on the back of the old stuffed chair, my mom sat beneath, and I pretended to tease her hair. But unlike other “pah-liz,” which is how we Massachusetts South Coaster pronounced it, mine served food: toast. Hot, buttered toast. While we sat there, her watching TV, me teasing, we went through–are you ready for this?–a whole loaf. Granted it was Sunbeam, with that terrorizing child on the package, and the loaf probably equaled about 6 slices of today’s heartier breads. And we liked our buttered toast naked: no jam, no sugar, no cinnamon. Just butter, the way God himself intended it.

    1. Jeez David…A whole LOAF of toast….
      Makes my eating a whole bag of Cheetos seem almost…reasonable.
      Thanks.

    2. I would probably base my salon choices on which ones served buttered toast. I mean, most offer water or tea, but I haven’t found one that offers snacks, yet!

  3. Mmmmmm – cinnamon sugar toast, have not had that in ages!! I know what I’m making for dessert tonight!
    🙂

    1. Just so you know….
      In the article it’s almost as though I conjured up the idea cinnamon toast all by myself. The truth though is that cinnamon toast is what my Mom made for me. And I remember the smells…and her ‘look’ when I told her it was my favorite. That’s why I made it for my sons. That right there.

      Tonight I’m having French Toast with real maple syrup and a huge passel of real smoked bacon….FOR dinner by God.

  4. Back home a toast (or two) in the morning is a staple. And oddly enough every time I go visit my parents as soon as they pick me up from the airport that is exactly what I want; a slice of “good” bread toasted and coffee with milk. Here in the States I do sometimes make bread and we all enjoy the morning toasts with salt butter or nutella.

    1. Thanks Sofia. My wife, Lynn, brought a jar of nutella to me here in Stowe, then headed back West. I spent the last week wondering what to do with the stuff. Now…

  5. I’m really glad there’s a community of double-toasters out there; people gave me odd looks when I was a kid for demanding my bread toasted once, buttered and toasted again for the full butter and crunchy-chewy experience. Nowadays, I let bits of butter not melt completely so I the added cold-butter sensation too… 🙂

    1. Perhaps in another time or parallel iniverse we were members of the same tribe of double-toasters….

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