The miracle of toast

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes (well, a replay from some time ago):


Toast is fascinating but utterly mundane: a truly minimal food (slice bread, make it crispy in heat). So it’s funny, and pops up — sorry — in cartoons fairly often.

Some toast postings — not Post Toasties, the breakfast cereal (though it’s also funny) — on this blog (excluding mentions of toasters, incidental mentions of toasted breadstuffs, and mentions of other toasted things, like toasted almonds or “I dreams of cheese — toasted, mostly”):

4/3/10: “Semantic change on the menu”: bruschetta

8/12/10: “The House of X formula”: Bob and Ray’s House of Toast

4/23/12: “Cartoon potatoes”: freedom toast ‘French toast’

5/2/12: “Old recipes I: Mrs. Curtis”: section of this old cookbook on toast

8/21/12: “Three from Vietnam”: 50 Most Delicious Foods: — #42 buttered toast with Marmite, Britain

10/28/12: “Ziegler on toast”: cartoons about toast

10/30/12: “At the sign of the Z”: zwieback, the toasted cracker

1/10/13: Bob & Edith’s: toast and jelly as part of a standard American breakfast

4/3/13: “Eggs over easily”: from the posting: “Over easy” fried eggs are also commonly referred to as dippy eggs or dip eggs by Marylanders, by Pennsylvania Dutch persons living in central Pennsylvania and those living around them, mainly due to the practice of dipping toast into the yolk while eating.

7/29/13: “be toast”

4/12/14: “Is That Jesus In Your Toast?”: pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon of seeing something significant in an ambiguous stimulus

7/29/14: “toast”: a Calvin and Hobbes; ambiguity in the noun toast — browned bread, call to honor someone

11/24/14: “fairy X”: antipodal fairy bread ‘French toast’

11/26/14: “Fairy bread”: French toast

1/10/15: “Proleptic toast”: “You’re toast!”

3/7/15: “Return to Norms”: from the posting: … a melt sandwich (also known in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom as a toasted cheese sandwich or, toastie)

5/24/15: “More California food”: #3 toasted/grilled cheese sandwich, #4 California version (with avocado)

8/5/15: “Culinary Loc + V back-formed Vs”: Loc-toast

10/22/15: “Bread play”: Scott Hilburn cartoon, “You aren’t the only slice of toast in the world, Melba”

10/27/15: “Pop-Tart blasphemy”: Pop-Tart toaster pastries

Bonus: four things on on toast: American creamed chipped beef on toast, British cheese on toast, the recipe book Better on Toast, and the English restaurant On Toast. And then artisanal toast in San Francisco and nearby.

Creamed chipped beef on toast.


From Wikipedia:

Chipped beef is thinly sliced or pressed salted and dried beef. Some makers smoke the dried beef for more flavor. The modern product consists of small, thin, flexible leaves of partially dried beef, generally sold compressed together in jars or flat in plastic packets. The processed meat producer Hormel once described it as “an air-dried product that is similar to bresaola, but not as tasty.”

Chipped beef is served in many diners and restaurants in the United States as a breakfast item. Creamed chipped beef is standard fare on many such diner menus, especially in the Mid-Atlantic, but has become harder to find in chain restaurants that serve breakfast; among the restaurants still offering chipped beef on toast are Golden Corral and Silver Diner. IHOP no longer offers this on their menus, having substituted sausage gravy, and the same is true for Cracker Barrel restaurants. It is also available from companies such as Stouffer’s in a frozen form which can be put on top of separately-prepared toast; it is typically quite salty.

… Chipped beef on toast (or creamed chipped beef on toast) is a culinary dish comprising a white sauce and rehydrated slivers of dried beef, served on toasted bread. Hormel recommends flavoring the dish with Worcestershire sauce and dried parsley. Chipped beef is also often served on bagels, English muffins, biscuits, home fries, rice, and in casseroles. It is often served in diners in the Northeastern United States, particularly in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

In the United States, chipped beef on toast is commonly served to servicemembers of the United States Armed Forces. It was thus considered emblematic of the military experience, much as pea soup is in Finland or Sweden. In American military slang it is commonly referred to by the dysphemism “Shit On a Shingle” (SOS) — or, “Stew On a Shingle”, “Same Old Stuff”, “Something On a Shingle”, or occasionally “Save Our Stomachs”.

Cheese on toast.


From Wikipedia:

Cheese on toast is a snack made by placing cheese on slices of bread and melting the cheese under a grill. It is a simple meal, popular in the United Kingdom.

Cheese on toast consists of toast, either buttered or not, with cheese on one side. Further toppings are optional; the most basic being chopped onions (raw or grilled with the cheese), brown sauce or ketchup. Pickled cucumber, Branston pickle, fried tomatoes, fried eggs, Worcestershire sauce and baked beans are also common. Another common variation is to add something to the toast before applying the cheese, such as tomato, or a thin layer of spread Marmite, Vegemite (in Australia), cream spread, mustard or tomato ketchup.

Beans on toast (that is, baked beans on toast) is another homey British food. Often served with chips (that is, French fries). Classic working-class fare, though somewhere along the line beans on toast (sometimes with with cheese on top) has come to be slang for something that’s really good, worth praising. And cheese on toast for something even better.

Better on Toast.


Better on Toast: Happiness on a Slice of Bread — 70 Irresistible Recipes by Jill Donenfeld (HarperCollins, 2015)

From the publisher’s blurb:

A fresh, fun, easy, cookbook, filled with color photographs, that reveals all the delectable things you can do with toast, one of today’s hottest culinary trends. The recipes serve as a flavor profile building blocks, making Better on Toast a great introductory cooking guide, too!

Whether she’s frantically preparing for an impromptu gathering with friends, looking for an energy boost before the gym, or home alone staring into the fridge for a midnight snack, Jill Donenfeld turns to one dish that always satisfies—Toast. Tartine, open-faced sandwich, smørbrød—whatever you call it, it’s that single slice of perfect bread stacked high with fresh, flavorful toppings.

Better on Toast features delicious, quick, easy-to-follow recipes for toasts with every possible topping—from hot to cold and savory to sweet. Anyone can make delicious toasts, no matter his or her level of experience or kitchen size. Whether you use thick-cut French bread, slices of whole wheat, or her gluten-free bread recipe, Jill puts emphasis on flavor, using quality, wholesome ingredients to make each recipe stand out.

Smoked Trout & Grapefruit Toast, Edamame Basil Toast, Chickpeas and Chorizo Toast, Rosemary Caper Tuna Salad Toast, Grilled Radicchio and Apple Buttermilk Toast, Carrot Butter and Halloumi Toast, Maple Pear Bread Pudding

On Toast, the restaurant.


Come and visit the Country’s first toast bar that everyone is talking about. Find us across the water, opposite the Vinings Warehouse: On Toast, West Quay, South Point, The Docks, Gloucester, GL1 2LE

On Toast in Gloucestershire surely represents the spread of artisanal toast restaurants from the US to the UK. Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, where the whole thing seems to have started…

Artisanal toast in San Francisco, Toast Eatery, and Toast Restaurant. From the New Yorker on 5/2/14, the beginning of “The Trend is Toast” by Hannah Goldfield:

Rare is the food trend that doesn’t garner backlash and the designation “overrated”; cf. cupcakes, cronuts, and kale, all mentioned in Sophie Brickman’s Talk of the Town story last week about the food-trend chronicler David Sax. Rarer still is the food trend that garners such immediate and absolute derision as “artisanal toast,” a category that seems to apply to any stand-alone restaurant or café menu item consisting of high-quality, crisped-up bread topped with something simple (like “small-batch” almond butter) and not called crostini or bruschetta.

Back in January, John Gravois, a writer for the California magazine Pacific Standard, set out to investigate the source of the craze in San Francisco, where he’d been watching it gather steam. What he discovered was an origin story that was fascinating and heartwarming enough to become a segment on This American Life; I won’t spoil it for you. But Gravois’s skepticism of the trend itself went beyond finding it overrated — he was practically appalled by it. The first line of his article describes the toast-making process with scorn: “All the guy was doing was slicing inch-thick pieces of bread, putting them in a toaster, and spreading stuff on them.” Later, he writes, “I rolled my eyes. How silly; how twee; how perfectly San Francisco, this toast,” and quotes the manager of the café where he first noticed it: “Tip of the hipster spear.”

NPR’s food and drink blog, the Salt, published two recent posts about the trend, the first an April Fool’s gag, promoting a toast-cooking class (“From demystifying the ‘Wonder’ of sliced bread to exploring a variety of techniques ranging from light to dark to extra dark, you’ll learn how to transform your favorite loaf to a crispy golden state”), the second an Onion-style parody of the different methods one might use to “TIY,” or toast it yourself (fireplace, blowtorch, coffeemaker, clothes dryer).

In the Seattle newspaper the Stranger, a writer named Bethany Jean Clement expounded at length upon the reasons to disdain toast as a craft item. Noting that the cost of a slice or two of artisanal toast could buy a whole loaf of bread, she explained, “Part of the moral outrage here is economic: Toast is meant to be a thrifty food, meant to make homespun, happy use of otherwise less-than-optimally-fresh bread,” and she points out that French toast in French is pain perdu, meaning, literally, “lost bread” that would otherwise be fed to the birds. (In a recent Critic’s Notebook, Pete Wells lamented the growing tendency of restaurants to charge for a bread “course”; the only thing worse, it might follow, is being charged for a stale-bread course.) And “the sense of perversity” goes even deeper, Clement argues: “Toast is home, toast is hearth.… Toast is…the first thing you learn to make.… Even a completely incompetent cook can make this one perfect thing.”

Lots of cafes in S.F.offer artisanal toast these days. Some specialize in it, in particular the two branches of Toast Eastery, at 1748 Church St. and 1601 Polk St. Meanwhile, in Novato, in Marin County, we now have the very elegant Toast Restaurant:


A further extra. I seem to have neglected milk toast (and milquetoast).


toasted buttermilk bread covered in white sauce with a dash of cinnamon

From Wikipedia:

Milk toast is a breakfast food consisting of toasted bread in warm milk, typically with sugar and butter. Salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon, cocoa, raisins and other ingredients may be added. In the New England region of the US, milk toast refers to toast that has been dipped in a milk-based white sauce. Milk toast was a popular food throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially for young children and for the convalescent, for whom the food was thought to be soothing and easy to digest. Although not as popular today, milk toast is still considered a comfort food.

… Milk toast’s soft blandness served as inspiration for the name of the timid and ineffectual comic strip character Caspar Milquetoast, drawn by H. T. Webster from 1924 to 1952. Thus, the term “milquetoast” entered the language as the label for a timid, shrinking, apologetic person.


One Response to “The miracle of toast”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Éamonn McManus, a pointer to “Chloe (Sevigny) loves Toast!” written and performed by Drew Droege, directed by Jim Hansen with Jesse James Rice):

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