Sometimes my inner English major, which is rarely in and usually out, hears something that just makes me cringe. I’ve written before about “irregardless” as well as the ongoing use of “impact” by those who refuse to learn the difference between “affect” and “effect.” But that’s not what set my teeth on edge this week.
Years ago, a man I had the displeasure of working with for a short time came into my office thrilled to report that his political machinations against a woman we both worked with seemed to be reaching a resolution in his favor. He happily reported, “The chick is toast.” If I didn’t already detest him, which I did, those four words did it for me. Ever since, that is the association I place on that slang meaning of the word “toast.”
For the life of me, I can’t understand how something as wonderful as toast has gotten such a very bad rap. It’s a lovely dietary staple that dresses up or dresses down, sometimes way down. I won’t ask for a show of hands, but I have a feeling I’m not the only one who has buttered white bread, sprinkled it with sugar and cinnamon, put it in the oven to broil until it turns into a bubbly symphony of low-brow cuisine.
Or you can take that same bread with slightly different preparation and have toast points worthy of much more elevated toppings—from pimento cheese to chicken salad to that salted roe that some folks are so crazy about.
Many, if not most, sandwiches are better when made with toasted bread. I can’t even picture a club sandwich any other way. When it comes to hamburgers made at home, well those buns go right in the toaster before we start loading them with the fixings.
Speaking of toasters, they get the job done, but I’m on the side of toasting bread in the oven, but that may be a holdover from my grandmother. Big Mama didn’t have a toaster, so she made her toast in one of those little toaster ovens. No one who has ever endured a summer in Texas heats up the kitchen needlessly, which I think is why toaster ovens may have been invented in the first place.
Cheese toast is wonderful, especially if you time it just right so that it comes out of the oven just as the cheese starts to balloon up and one little edge gets just a little bit black. Timing is everything when toasting in the oven.
We didn’t have avocado toast when I was a child, but it is a wonderful thing to have now. So can someone explain to me how it is a bad thing to be toast?
Even the other meanings of toast are positive. We toast the newlyweds, and we toast the honorees at the fiftieth-anniversary celebration. To be the toast of the town is a high honor, especially if the town is New York.
Whoever started this just didn’t really think it completely through. To really be accurate, to really reflect that someone is done, finished or completely kaput, the expression should be burnt toast. Because there isn’t much you can do with charred bread left too long in the oven.
But thinking that, I thought to check it out just to be sure, and sure enough, Food & Wine had some ideas for their magazine’s epicurean readers on how to use burnt toast. It can be pulverized and mixed with salt and red pepper flakes to create a spicy seasoning perfect for flavoring your morning eggs. Or, it can be crumbled up and used as a binder for meatballs “where they’ll deliver an extra layer of depth and umami.”
Here I was so proud of having the occasion to use the word “epicurean,” and some writer at this hoity-toity magazine springs “umami” on me. I’ll bet she doesn’t know a thing about the joys of cinnamon toast. And wouldn’t admit it if she did.
So when a former high-ranking Department of Justice official this week said that Donald Trump “is toast legally,” I just sort of cringed. He should have said that the former president is burnt toast. I think that would have been so much more accurate.
Unless Trump gets out of the oven real soon, that golden brown (or orange, if you prefer) is going to blacken, and not in that good Cajun way. If that happens, he’s likely to be the deepest layer of umami the American meatball has ever seen.