Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Toast of the Town

I make the best toast in Seoul.

This puts me ahead of 10.3 million people (as of 2003).

How did I accomplish this? As you know, I rise early -- normally (abnormally?) around 3:00 a.m. -- and spend about three hours reading and blogging.

You didn't know that? Pay attention!

Anyway, being the first one up, I am responsible for preparing breakfast. Over the years, one gets better at details.

"But," you retort, "isn't toasting bread a rather simple thing?"

Well, no, not if you do it right. I've spent years mastering the Maillard process, getting the sugars and amino acids to bind properly.

Why have I bothered?

Because every morning, I make a toast for my wife:

"Ah, toast of the town," I tell her, "you are perfection itself and deserve only the perfect toast."

I then raise a mug of coffee in her honor -- appropriately enough, for the "toast" in "to raise a toast" was originally a metaphor:

. . . referring to the beautiful or popular woman whose health is proposed and drunk, from the use of spiced toast to flavor drink, the lady regarded as figuratively adding piquancy to the wine in which her health was drunk.

The spiced toast mentioned here refers to the slices of toast typically used as sops with the spiced punch served at Christmas celebrations. The spiced drink itself is known as wassail, a word going back to Old English "wes hál," which means "be in good health." The "hál" here is related to the still-known if rarely used English words "hail" and "hale" as well as to the very common English words "heal" and "whole" -- all four being cognates of the German "Heil."

Yes, as in "Sieg Heil," but don't blame the word "Heil," which is also related to "heilig," the German cognate to "holy."

None of these are related etymologically to the word "hell," which is -- one assumes -- an unholy place. And it's been said by William Congreve that "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." And if you end up in hell, you're toast!

Which brings us back to the perfect toast that I make every morning for my perfect wife. How do I do it? Put the toast in the toaster and let it brown lightly. Remove it from the toaster, take a serrated knife, slice the toast cross-sectionally (so as to make two, thinner slices), turn the toasted sides to face each other (so that only the untoasted sides are exposed), and place the toast back in the toaster to let the untoasted sides toast.

The result: exquisitely toasted bread. Excellent with butter, honey, jam, cream cheese, nutella, or whatever topping you prefer.


At 8:50 AM, Blogger The Root said...

Ah, the fine art of toast. Unless of course you have a fancy-shmancy toaster, like I do, that does everything you need at the push of a button.
Hey, I'm a New Yorker. I don't do anything that someone or something else can do for me. :)

And, pertaining to the comments on your previous post, I'm afraid that blogger vultures will become more and more common as time goes by. Damn commercialism...

At 9:26 AM, Blogger Hypersonic said...

Wow! I have never seen a post spun out from such a mundane beginning. You sir are a master and I raise my glass to you.

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The "blogger vultures" -- I like that!

Looks like another one showed up in the "gifted child" comment above. I clicked anyway out of curiosity and found a lot of stuff on books for gifted children.

Some of it didn't look bad.

My children, however, are so gifted that everything listed there would be beneath them.

Alistair, thanks for the toast. (And I hope that you get the sand out of your computer.)

At 6:05 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yet another "blogger vulture" -- a Mr. Playstation 3 Blog who want me to purchase stuff.

Well, stuff it in your playstation, Mr. Blog.

At 6:17 AM, Blogger Kate Marie said...

Great post! I'm going to send it to my husband, who will enjoy the philology lesson -- and perhaps take a gentle hint at the same time.

At 6:40 AM, Blogger stewdog said...

All this discussion of toast put a Jethro Tull song in my head.

Wond'ring Aloud

Wond'ring aloud --
how we feel today.
Last night sipped the sunset --
my hands in her hair.
We are our own saviours
as we start both our hearts beating life
into each other.

Wond'ring aloud --
will the years treat us well.
As she floats in the kitchen,
I'm tasting the smell
of toast as the butter runs.
Then she comes, spilling crumbs on the bed
and I shake my head.
And it's only the giving
that makes you what you are.

At 7:48 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Kate Marie, for the kind words, and Stewdog, for the many words from one of the heroes of the Agricultural Revolution.

But I need to watch my own words more carefully:

Yet another "blogger vulture" -- a Mr. Playstation 3 Blog who want me to purchase stuff.

That should read "wants" rather than "want" -- how did I ever manage to teach composition?


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