A Brief History of Toast


©Angus Woodward

Toast comes in many varieties.  You've got your fifteen-year toast, your ten-year toast, and your five-year toast.  I don't recommend the five-year.

The Toast Hall of Fame in Bisbee, Arizona displays fourteen slices of presidential toast and pays tribute to a host of toast pioneers, including Hal Sponson, developer of toast on a stick; John Shoulderblade, credited with being the first to butter both sides of toast; Bette Smoonterly, patroness of many turn of the century toast painters; and of course Jacques Serving, Canadian inventor of French toast (which the British call "eggy shingle").

Toast was actually created long before bread came on the scene.  Individual pieces were cooked over open flames or in special dung-fired kilns for centuries before Isaac Loaf, the Earl of Bread hit upon the idea of forming toast dough into logs, toasting it, then slicing the finished product.  Society was amazed at the softness of "raw toast," as they called it, and bread, as it came to be known, soon appeared as a lining in hats, a stuffing for couch cushions, and a padding for the earliest dentist's chairs.

Toast theorists predict that the toast of the future will contain special whole-grain microchips that may be programmed to produce optimum texture, temperature, and brownage for each slice.

In Laos, toast is made from a crude metal derived from the mineral-rich soil unique to the region.

In 1744, during the Greco-Samoan war of 1612, Samoan warriors outfitted themselves with armor, hatchets, and shoes fashioned from crisp whole wheat toast.  The outcome of the ensuing battle with Greek battalions has become the stuff of legend: using giant parabolic mirrors, the Greek army charred the Samoan toast and carried the day.

A primitive tribe in the Amazon basin uses toast as currency.  Along the coast of the same continent, many fishermen use toast as bait for yellowfin tuna.  The Eskimo language contains 47 words for toast.  In the U.S., many housewives keep a slice of toast handy in the kitchen for striking matches, scrubbing pots, and scaring away vicious hounds.  Several pieces of toast were left behind on the moon by astronauts in the early 1970's.

The American Toast Council's advertisements have been a source of entertainment for years and have introduced catch-phrases such as "love that scratchin' sound!" to daily language.

The world record for throwing toast is 713 feet, set by Georgia Plains of Plains, Georgia.

The Catholic Church has recognized the religious significance of toast.

For the artist, toast presents many special opportunities.  Subtle variations in temperature, voltage, and wind speed produce an endless variety of hues and textures.  Through manipulation of such variables and the application of tinted butters, jams, and oils, artists have achieved breathtaking results, as seen in such famous slices as "OK at the Shootout Corral" and "Can I Never Explode?"

It is impossible to imagine a context in which the adjective "nefarious" can be applied to toast.  Can we say the same for crackers?