If (and hopefully not when) I am on Death Row and requesting my last meal, it would, without a doubt, consist of three things: a loaf of really good bread (although a loaf of bad processed bread has its merits too), copious salted butter and a toaster. Toast is, without a doubt, my favorite go-to food: for comfort, for convenience, for lowbrow, for gourmet; to me nothing beats it.
Wikipedia describes toast: “Toast is bread that has been browned by exposure to radiant heat. This browning reaction is known as the Maillard Reaction. Toasting warms the bread and makes it firmer, so it holds toppings more securely. Toasting is a common method of making stale bread more palatable.”
The ancient Egyptians, around 6000 years ago, were the first to develop the bread that we know today. They realised that if they let the bread sit out in Egypt’s warm climate it would rise, and when baked would retain its risen shape. However, they also noticed that after a few days in the dry desert air, the bread would become hard and unpleasant to eat.
Toasting bread in ancient times was a means of preserving it. The Romans spread the idea of toast throughout Europe, even into Britain, and the colonists brought toast to the Americas. The word ‘toast,’ in fact, comes from the Latin word tostum, meaning scorch or burn. Toast is essentially burnt bread, so the name makes sense.
At first bread was toasted by holding it over a fire or by lying it on a hot stone. Some earlier toasters were wire frames that sat over a fireplace. The invention of electricity led to the invention of the modern toaster. Before the toaster could be built, however, a certain nickel-chromium alloy called ni-chrome had to be developed so that the toast could be heated. This is why the toaster arrived on the scene after other appliances.
The first toasters were produced in the early 1900s; the first commercially successful toaster appeared in 1909. The first automatic, or ‘pop-up’, toaster for the home was the Toastmaster, developed in 1926. There was even a knob that the user turned to determine the degree of darkness. The Toastmaster caused quite a stir, and along with the invention of sliced bread, it helped open the age of the automatic toaster. By the 1940s, most toasters were automatic.
There are a vast number of toast lovers in the world, and with the advent of the internet they have found a new medium. There is an immense network of toast-dedicated websites, including a toast bible, songs about toast, and all sorts of toast and toaster memorabilia. For example, visit http://www.drtoast.com/ for toast recipes, related links, and so on.
What Of It? Toast sits at the intersection of necessity and luxury for me: I eat it almost every day, and every day it gives me pleasure. Certain foods, similar to smells, connect us deeply to our past, contain a vivid sense memory and appeal to the limbic, primal part of our brain, evoking memories of childhood and of where we came form: toast is daily bread, both literally and metaphorically to me.
I am Curious about sense memories, about comfort and deep connection to things that we surround ourselves with.