Bread of the Week: Olive + Herb (or thoughts on toast)


Toast is one of my deepest pleasures in life. I know this is somewhat absurd, it doesn't quite offer me that madeline moment, one of intensity where memories swell with every experience of shattering crust. I am certain that my adoration for toast is affected by the accumulation of my past experiences with it. When I was a boy, my family didn't own a toaster. No, we had a toaster oven. A factor that likely led to a heightened awareness of the toast making process. I guess I was somewhat fascinated by ordinary pop-up toasters. Eventually when I was older, for reasons unknown, my mother did purchase the more conventional toasting apparatus. Even still, my memories revolve around a circa 80s orange and black toaster oven. I am sure it was one of the first of its kind, made in an era when alternatives were sought to the full-sized oven. From this machine my mother would pull out cinnamon rolls most Sunday mornings (a tradition my sister has continued with her children) and even more routinely, toasted bread. Toast was not only for breakfast, in fact, it would often be found at dinner time most pleasantly smathered with peanut butter and peach sauce. Peach sauce, being canned peaches coursely blended in their juices, thickened a bit, and warmed.  This simple creation would become one of my favorite dinner entrĂ©es as a child and continued to one of my most favorite things. For an entirely different approach, typically for breakfast, peach sauce would be replaced by applesauce. Almost ritualistically, I have toast with peanut butter and applesauce every morning. Then there were those few lonely years during high school, when I would eagerly rush home for lunch slicing up a baguette, sliding it into the toaster oven to make the most perfect melted cheese-tomato-lettuce sandwich.

I was told early on that over-done toast caused curly hair, a piece of wisdom handed down from my grandmother. We now know that burnt toast will only cause cancer but the sentiment remains. And so have the sentiments associated with toast. When I moved away from home to college I knew I needed one item to make my apartment feel homely. It was only partially buried away in my family's garage. I carefully tried to clean away years of splattered grease from its chrome-finished top and installed it in my barren kitchen. Years of dear experiences of toast making became singularly mine in some sort of tangible form in a way they hadn't before.

I continued to use that increasingly tattered toaster oven until I was gifted a much larger and fancier toaster oven. The experience, as can be imagined, was bitter-sweet. I don't think those around me really understood my affection toward that small appliance and my sadness of letting it go.

Strangely toast has become a significant part of my life, probably more than it should have become. It was after all my only food request for my brunch wedding, the encapsulation of family memories, the perfect pairing for tea, a bonding point, and a deeply personal symbol for all that is good in life. Some of my sweetest memories have occurred alongside this simple food.

Tonight I stood in my mother's kitchen, admiring her new toaster oven, knowing that only I felt the way I did.

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