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.

Β Note: The bread used in this photoshoot was a sesame loaf purchased at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.

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10 Responses to My Life is Toast

  1. Carolyn Jung says:

    I start most every morning with a slice of toast — smeared with jam and a sliver of good cheese. It’s the best way to greet the world. πŸ˜‰

  2. hungry dog says:

    I’m with Carolyn, I have toast most days, often with cheese (d’Affinois!) though sometimes just butter. That bread looks awesome, and bread, of course, is the real key to good toast. My personal fave is a multigrain levain I get at the Boulange de Cole down the hill from our house.

    • Ben Ben says:

      Yum, I’m always looking for good multigrain bread. I’m going to check out that Boulange de Cole version.

  3. Row says:

    I smiled and shook my head when I read the part about scraping the blackened parts off the toast. When I was a kid, I’d fiddle around with the settings, trying to find the one that would give me the perfect slice of toast (crunchy outside, soft inside). Most times, I’d end up standing over the kitchen sink, grimacing while I tried to salvage what I could. I don’t mess around with my toaster as much anymore. πŸ™‚

    • Ben Ben says:

      I have a better toaster now, too, but I still have to fiddle a bit with the settings to get the perfect golden brown. Sigh.

  4. foodhoe says:

    I love toast with jam and a cup of coffee, although that really is more of a mid morning snack for me, second breakfast…

    I read the book, is it really a movie?

    • Ben Ben says:

      Yes, it’s a movie with Helena Bonham Carter playing the part of the second wife. It was pretty interesting and nicely filmed. I love how you have a second breakfast! πŸ™‚

  5. agent713 says:

    I love that you did a whole post just about toast. This makes me happy πŸ™‚

    I have a question about the butter, or as you say “butter substitute”. I’ve mentioned before that I have high cholesterol as well and was diagnosed as a child. Because of that (my dad also suffers) we always had margarine at home. Now I read from many people that “butter is better” because it’s not processed but I’m interested in your opinion. For “people like us”, is butter better? Or should we stick to margarine? Or do you use something totally different as your “butter substitute”?

    • Ben Ben says:

      Agent713, I’ve heard that too that butter is better than margarine, which is what our family used growing up. I’m sure butter, being natural, is ok as long as it’s in moderation. As for me, I actually use a product called “Smart Balance,” which isn’t labeled margarine, so I don’t think it’s margarine. It’s called butter spread but it’s not officially butter. I know palm oil is part of the ingredients, but then rest is all manufactured ingredients. The one I used also contains flax seed. I don’t know if it’s better, but I like to think so. It doesn’t taste the same as butter, of course, doesn’t have that sweet flavor. But I have to use it because of my cholesterol levels. (It’s not super high, but just barely over the normal.)