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The Majesty of Toast

You know what’s awesome? Toast. Toast is quite the wonder stuff. I’m so smitten with toast that I have a tattoo of a toaster on my left arm. It’s a vintage Toastmaster. When people inquire after the significance of the tattoo, all I can say is this: “I like toast.”

Toast is multipurpose and multifaceted. There are as many ways of eating it as there are people who eat it. As a quick and easy breakfast, toast is a vehicle for peanut butter, jam, fried eggs, avocado slices, or any manner of other toppings. Since the USDA recommends eating 6-11 servings of grains a day, a couple of slices of bread can kick-start your morning quite well. The difference between a toasted cheese sandwich and a cold cheese sandwich is, quite literally, palpable. And you certainly can’t have a BLT on soggy regular ol’ bread, that’s for sure. Moreover, for dinner, it’s absolutely necessary for dishes like Welsh Rarebit and my childhood favorite, Creamed Asparagus on Toast Points. (It was the 1970s. Don’t judge me.)

There’s a toast bar in my neighborhood that does a mean Swedish-style toast consisting of thickly sliced bread, toasted and buttered, topped with jam and cheese. They also do some mainstream toppings, peanut butter, jams, cinnamon sugar, and the like. It may seem an odd indulgence, but the heartwarming effect of occasionally having someone else make a sugary, buttery slice of cinnamon toast for you is incalculable. That, and a hot cup of coffee, is a great antidote to pretty much anything life can throw at you.

It’s a bit comforting to know that I’m not the only fanatic out there. It’s a bit disconcerting, too, though, I must admit. Dr Toast’s Amazing World of Toast is an en-tire blog dedicated to the wonders of crispy, heated bread; the Red Toaster Guide is specifically geared towards all things red and toasterly; Mr. Breakfast’s 335 Ways to Enjoy Toast lists almost an entire year’s worth of toast variations (number 145, toast topped with bleu cheese and honey — sounds pretty tasty right now); and The Toaster has some great toast/toaster inspired street art. Toaster technology is pretty awesome, too. The Toaster Museum Foundation is a non-profit org dedicated to documenting and preserving the history, and the future, of toasters.

I blame The New Duncan Imperials for my obsession. Don’t get me wrong, I’d liked toast long before NDI came around, but they sold toast at their live shows and that was just the niftiest thing ever. It wasn’t just any toast, either — it was Super Toast. You could get it any way you wanted, but the highest-level incarnation came with butter, peanut butter, Nutella, grape jelly, and candy sprinkles. That and a couple of beers — along with some weird guys on stage, dressed in matching suits, jumping around and singing about Tilt-A-Whirls and velour — is my definition of heaven.

Actually, now that I think of it, my friend Sue also made a version of Super Toast. Back in elementary school, we were both latchkey kids, and after school we’d head over to her house for Happy Days re-runs, after school snacks, and general mayhem. She made a white bread and butter sandwich, toasted, that usually also contained chocolate syrup, cinnamon sugar, and/or Velveeta slices. And it worked.

This seems to be all about comfort and remembrances and breakfasts and whatnot, but really, a bit of the magic of toast can be neatly summed up in 2 words — Maillard Reaction. This is the technical term for the amino acids and sugars in bread caramelizing when heated. It’s the same thing that makes roasted coffee taste so good and gives dulce de leche its distinctive flavor.

There is something more than thermal reactions, though, that makes toast so great — that little extra something that can’t be calculated or science-d out so easily. At its base, toast is just toast, and for that, there is no quantifiable scale. It just is.

Lorien Gruchalla

PHOTO BY ROADSIDE PICTURES

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4 Comments »

  1. For me, too, toast is a morning staple. Wynne, our little dog, and I share a piece of toast every morning before going out for our early walk. I make it, she dances for it. You gotta start the day right!

  2. I need to go have some cinnamon toast RIGHT NOW.

  3. Strategically played on a Toastmaster 4-slice concert model with a pair of forks…

    YEAH TOAST by Heywood Banks (original Flash version).
    Strategically played on a Toastmaster 4-slice concert model with a pair of forks.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEo9rFhFT8E

  4. I am making BLT’s for a crowd and am going to be camping with no electric. How can I toast the bread for about 30 people and make toast in advance and keep it from getting soggy. ?Use stale bread, toast it, cool it completely and put in a paper bag so it doesn’t sweat and get soggy too.

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