Toasty and warm, like a saddlesore

by Jim Knipfel

Contrary to popular opinion, as I am prone to be, there are, indeed, a few things in this craggy ol' world that I love. Foremost among them is toast. How I do love toast. All kinds of toast. Regular white toast, wheat toast, rye toast, cinnamon and raisin toast, french toast, toast and jelly, toasted English muffins, toast and peanut butter, toaster pastries (speaking of which, whatever happened to Danish Go-Rounds? They were great!), toast and cheese, everything!

Everybody, it seems, has a toast story of some kind. My wife says that the barely toasted toast with margarine that's a breakfast staple in diners across America is what made her hate bread when she was young. I, myself, love that kind of toast. Always instacks of four or five slices on a little plate, always cut diagonally, always a little soggy. What's not to love?

My friend Laura Lindgren says, "Yeah, toast is a funny thing, only I can't remember why." She promises to let me know when she does.

Brian Brain titled an album "Time Flies When You're Having Toast." And boy, did he hit the nail on the head! My friends Donna and Carol want to have an art opening at some point in the future where I will be seated at a small table in a corner, with a toaster and several loaves of bread. It'll be my job to just sit there and eat toast all night. Talk about heaven!

Another friend of mine, Erik, keeps sending me postcards with pictures of toast on them. I guess you could call them "toastcards." Erik's girlfriend, Phaedra, is the postcard buyer for the Cooper-Hewitt Museum here in New York, and whenever she sees some toastcards in a postcard catalog, you can bet she'll order them.

"I think I like the black and white ones better," Erik said the other day.

"Erik, no! With the colored ones, you can better see the different levels of toastiness!" I told him.

"Ah, yes...toastiness," he said, almost wistfully.

There was a restaurant in Green Bay--The Allouez Cafe it was called--known citywide for its toast (and not much else). Their toast, you see, wasn't made from gooey, uniform slices of Wonderbread, but rather from handcut slices of fresh homemade loaves. The crust was thick, the bread grainy and, well, crusty. Some of the best toast I've ever had, I must say.

In the only funny Ziggy cartoon ever, we see Ziggy walking down the street,. glancing casually at a storefront across the way. Behind a counter, we see a man in a chef's hat and apron, a little moustache, a little smirk on his face. All there is on the counter next to him is a toaster. Over the doorway is a big sign: Bill's Toast Shop. That sure made me laugh.

Thinking about it, it's not just the toast itself, but the toasters, too. Can't very well have toast without toasters, can you? I should think not! My current toaster, which has been with me for close to ten years now, will toast two slices of bread simultaneously to a variety of toastiness levels. One of its more intriguing features is a little trap door on the bottom, which (as I found out quite by accident one day) is used to empty the toaster of crumbs in a safe and efficient manner. Of course, that's not the way I did it, but we learn from our mistakes.

Laura is particularly enamoured of those aerodynamic, chrome art-deco toasters, the springs of which were powerful enough to actually toss the slices of bread high into the air. Whoever thought that simple bread could be an action food? Well, of course it isn't until it's transformed into...toast!

There's a lot to be said for toaster ovens as well. I, myself, have never actually owned a toaster oven, but when I was in town a few weeks back, I stayed with some friends who did, and it certainly seemed to do the trick.

And who among us didn't spend many happy childhood winter days pushing down the plunger, watching the coils slowly begin to glow orange, then warming our hands over the bread slots? How do toasters work, anyway? How does the toaster know when the toast inside it is "light," "medium," or "dark"? One of the great unsung mysteries of our modern age.

To top things off, where would we be if we couldn't raise a toast?

Ah, yes, so I do indeed love toast. But I still hate all of you.

Copyright Jim Knipfel. Published originally in the Welcomat. Illustration by Bob Hires. All rights reserved.

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