Famed British food writer Nigel Slater lovingly describes toast in his memoirs-turned-movie “Toast” as a warm, buttery chew that fills any boy’s hunger for satisfaction and, probably, acceptance.
I was amazed one person could place so much hope and gain such happiness from a burnt piece of sliced bread. As I recently watched the actor playing a young Slater in the DVD lovingly eat toast for dinner when his good-intentioned mother spoils yet another family dinner, it made me assess my own relationship with toast.
I had a late-blooming relationship with toast because as a boy growing up in a Chinese household in Hawaii, rice was more our starch of choice over bread at the dinner table. Still, my early memories of toast was of my father who would be sitting alone at the kitchen table early in the morning making a quick breakfast of coffee and toast while the rest of us milked as much sleeping time we could get before getting up for school.
My early attempts in making toast would often turn black because our family couldn’t afford a fancy or reliable toaster, so the old toaster I’d rustle up to lightly torch my bread would often engulf it instead. Then came the ritual of scrapping the black ash with the side of the butter knife. Till this day the sound of scratching bread sparks a twinge of waste and lost opportunity.
Through years of practice of making toast for a quick snack with peanut butter in college to a side for weekend brunch, toast now comes in shades of gold. While most of you might make toast after your bread starts to go stale, I make it the same day I buy my loaf of bread.
There’s something about the crunchy exterior, lightly browned and hardened, acting as a shell for the still soft and slightly chewy inside that brings a smile. And when the bread is good, I forgo the spread and go simply with a light coat of butter (well, in my case butter substitute because of my cholesterol).
Toast can be a simple pleasure to make, but a difficult one to perfect. You just have to keep trying.
Note: The bread used in this photoshoot was a sesame loaf purchased at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.
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