My relationship with…toast.
A story of love, loss and a new-found disdain for the inferior form of bread.
There are many things people love about mornings and I’m reasonably confident in saying that there are many more things people hate. Some love the thought of being productive and functional before the day starts, others can’t find a cup of coffee fast enough. Some people get up before the sun rises to get a gym session in, while there’s people like me who are sprinting from their house to get the last bus they can, otherwise they’ll be late for work. Again. Mornings are maybe the most polarising time of the day, but there’s one universal element to the morning that I’m yet to find anyone opposed to: breakfast.
I’ll extend the term “breakfast” to include brunch for the purposes of this discussion, because well, it’s still the meal that breaks your fast for the day. There’s a long discussion to be had on the nature of breakfast, brunch, lunch, etc. that I won’t go in to. I’ll leave you with this post, which identified tweets that contained the word brunch and other key terms to determine the true brunch point of the day. Truly a masterpiece of data analysis and how it relates to living in the first world.
Full disclosure: breakfast is my favourite meal. Well, it’s my favourite meal when I get to enjoy it. Brunch is mostly a weekend activity for me, with my weekdays filled with the dreaded phrase “full-time employment”, so breakfast is the true overarching favourite. I value having a good quality breakfast each day, and can comfortably live with the thought of being late for work if it means I get to have a fulfilling breakfast. However, as the years have gone on, there’s one (some would say vital) element of the breakfast experience that in recent years I have found problematic: toast. If eggs are the protagonist in the breakfast/brunch story, then toast is the true antagonist. Soggy spinach may try, but it is no match for the true evil that toast represents.
Why toast? It’s just bread.
I think to understand my disdain for toast, we have to go back to a simpler time. Allow me to set the scene: it’s the late 1990s, and a young Ashley is sitting at the kitchen table on a quiet Sunday in Black River, Townsville, Queensland. My Mum (bless her, she is the greatest) has made what at this time is my absolute favourite food, egg soldiers. The egg is sitting in my favourite egg cup that we got from Disneyland in 1997 and she has sliced the top off the perfectly boiled egg, to reveal the runny yolk centre perfect for dipping the piece of toast cut in to five equal pieces. The pieces of toast are a little brown on the outside, but nice and soft on the inside. It’s a real spectacle. Needless to say, the egg soldiers go down an absolute treat and this particular Sunday is off to an absolute flyer. At this time in my life, toast is a magical item that I can’t get enough of.
This isn’t where the love affair with toast ends, there’s plenty more. Every morning before school, it was either crunchy peanut butter or strawberry jam on toast. I was never really a cereal kid, and I’m still not a cereal adult. Toast was my lifeline in the mornings, it would get me through. Fast forward to high school, and I would spend many mornings in the Ignatius Park College toast room getting a bit of breakfast from Mrs Allan, the most lovely lady ever and a true saint of my high school (an example of how glorious this room is). Truly great days.
All good things must come to an end sadly, and for me, it all came crashing down around 2010.
Many things in my life have changed since 2010, but there’s one major one: my weight. Running with the earlier idea of blog posts for another time, I used to be really overweight. I stopped eating toast. Well, actually, I stopped eating bread and basically anything that was a carbohydrate for a fairly extended period of time. It was a real wild ride. I still remember the first time I had bread after I went through weight loss. It was 2012, and I went to Subway with some friends. The many times I had been there over those couple of years I had just ordered a salad bowl at Subway if I’d ever gone there. For the record, the salad bowls are an experience I wish upon no one. On this day, I had a sub. I tried to not make a big deal out of it, but I couldn’t help but tell my friends that it was the first time I’d had bread in two years. Typical of my friends from home, the response was something along the lines of “I don’t care”. In the context, probably the correct response, I probably shouldn’t have cared either. It’s just bread.
When you go from having something so consistently for so long to not having it at all, obviously it changes the way you view this thing. For me, bread went from being that was almost an everyday item to something that I almost despised. Bread is a carb, carbs are bad, and therefore bread is bad. Thankfully, what was once bad can become good (see: The Terminator) and bread has found its way back into my heart in almost all forms. Except toast, toast is truly the Magneto of the bread world. Sometimes being so close to good, but forever remaining the main antagonist.
Here are three things I hate about toast:
1. It’s dry.
2. It doesn’t stay hot.
3. It changes the flavour of the bread.
I’m a simple person with simple needs. I’ve just bought a delicious loaf of bread and I can’t wait to eat some. Oh what’s that, I should toast the bread? Oh sure, let me get the toaster out of the cupboard, set it up, make sure that the piece of bread I’ve sliced fits in the toaster, grab all the condiments I’m going to require to make the toast a functional item of food and then wait around while the toast is toasting. If I don’t toast it enough, it’s basically a waste of time. If I toast it too long, I’ve created myself a hard, crusty weapon that I could use as a hammer in case of emergency. If I somehow manage to get the toasting process right, I then have a small window to enjoy the toast at its optimum point before it all goes downhill. Fast. If I miss this window, I may as well grab some cardboard out of the recycling bin and put some butter on it because it’s probably going to taste the same.
The other option is that I slice the piece of bread whatever the fuck size I want and instantly enjoy the bread that I’ve bought. After all, it’s just bread.
I’m reasonably comfortable with the thought of getting toast at a café, because I’m not going to be the person who asks for my sourdough untoasted. I just eat around it. If it’s soft enough and covered in some form of sauce, then I might give it a crack. But if I’m at home, you’ll never see me pull out the toaster. “It sounds like you’ve never had good toast” is a classic response to what is usually described as unfounded hatred towards a breakfast staple. This is untrue, I used to love toast. I did always prefer my toast on the lighter side, which could easily explain why I was so happy to just dump it out of the equation.
Another important point is that I don’t really like butter. I never have wanted butter, even in my younger, toast loving days. I don’t put it on my sandwiches and I don’t really want it on my corn. Like King Arthur and Excalibur, Frodo and Sam or Beyoncé and Jay-Z, toast and butter are some kind of mythical pairing that were always meant to be. Not for me. Butter can stay in the baking world where it’s useful. I’ll concede fairy bread as the only exception to the butter rule, fairy bread is proper magical.
Breakfast is a meal that covers all ranges of form and function. My three fried eggs in the morning with salt, pepper and tomato sauce is probably somewhere medium-high on the function scale. The breakfast special cassoulet I had at Suzie Q on the weekend, while delicious, probably trended towards the form end of breakfast. Toast is neither form nor function. Toasting my bread doesn’t make it more convenient to eat, neither does it really enhance the flavour to any great detail (without the addition of other items), so why would I want it? It’s just bread. That is the question I ask myself some mornings when I think maybe that will be the day that I will make toast. Instead, I pour myself a glass of juice and laugh while I enjoy my eggs — toast free.
Bonus content: I like toasted sandwiches. I love tomato sauce on bread. Croutons can fuck right off.