First appeared on Food Riot, by Dana Staves
Toast is the new hip thing that we've always had all along, going the way of doughnuts and cupcakes, becoming artisanal and innovated. Except with toast, it seems there's not so much innovation as an attention to the art form of bread, of toasting, of slathering toppings.
I do not take issue with this artistry; my sister once teased me for making sure I got butter into every last square centimeter of surface space on my toast. I was meticulous; it was my breakfast art.
But the toast pill is a hard one to swallow, especially at $4 a slice. Many articles have been written about it. One, an article in Pacific Standard about Giulietta Carrelli, who seems to have started San Francisco's toast trend, even made me think, "Okay, cool, I would support that business," largely because they focus on the person making the toast rather than the toast itself, which at the end of the day, is still toast.
Just last week, months after that article ran, Bon Appetit ran a piece on how to make the perfect toast at home, urging readers to start with good bread, to slice it thicker (genius), make sure the toaster is really hot, use butter, salt it, and eat it while it's hot. All decent advice.
But is it possible we're over-thinking this? It's toast. It's the ultimate five-ingredient yum. Your house comes hard-wired with the only equipment you really need to make it (an oven). Toast is one of the first things I ever learned how to make, somehow without all the gourmet advice from a magazine.
You take your bread, sliced however you like it. You toast it, using oven or toaster (toaster is easier - a bonus for morning breakfast prep). Slather it with butter for a classic experience. Spoon a little jam on there if you wish, you sassy thing. If you want to cover it in peanut butter or Nutella, no one will judge you; so few breakfasts can be both quick and decadent, so carpe diem. Carpe the hell out of that Nutella.
While it's a great thing that something as homey and delightful as toast is available for people in coffee shops or cafés, people on the go with no time to cook for themselves, I just have a hard time getting down with a whole toast trend, where a shop might serve 350-400 slices of toast on a busy Saturday or Sunday.
Because when we take a humble food like toast - the perfect sick food, the perfect lazy, poor, sad, tired, in-need-of-comfort food, the perfect first food for kids to learn to cook, the perfect breakfast in bed for lovers, old and new - and we dress it up in all this finery, when we take it out of the home kitchen and into the trendy coffee shops of the world, then we take something away from the simple enjoyment that people are seeking in the first place. We take something simple and we make it utterly complicated and expensive and precious. And not everything can be precious, you guys. Not all foods need boutiques and reality shows (okay, this hasn't happened with toast yet, but give it time). A slice of toast should just be a slice of toast, simple and perfect, popping from your toaster with a merry ding. That's the toast I propose.
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