My early memories of toast is as a breakfast food usually topped with the basic spreads of butter and jam. At that time toast was considered a “thrifty” choice and was often an economical way to use up stale bread. Over the years, this “comfort food” has evolved and become a significant food trend to the extent that some toast creations are now referred to as “artisan”.
What is “artisan toast”
According to some, “artisan toast” is very similar to ordinary toast except “bigger, better and louder.” It is about innovating toast and pairing it with varied and interesting toppings and I have seen some examples that truly do resemble a work of art. With toast as a proven platform, the possibility of toppings is limitless and as it seems there is very little that can’t be successfully added to a slice of toast, it is a great way to enliven the creative as well as digestive juices.
Origins of “toast”
Although the word toast comes from the Latin torrere meaning ‘to burn’, I think the preference for most of us is that we don’t go to that extreme for a good slice of toast.
According to Emily Upton’s article The History of Toast, the bread we enjoy today was “likely invented in ancient Egypt” where it was discovered that, due to yeast spores in the air, dough would rise if left sitting out. By about 3000 BC, the closed oven was invented for the baking of the first leavened breads.
However, if the bread was left out in the desert heat for long periods of time, it would go hard and become difficult to eat. Upton believes that it is “likely that toast originated as a way to preserve bread since scorching it would make it last longer as a palatable food”.
Origin of the term “to toast”
In the Origin of Toasting Drinks, Tegan Jones refers to the term “to toast” someone as originating in the 16th century and it is thought to have sprung from the practice of adding warmed bread to a drink, often wine.
Although settling down with a glass of wine and dunking a piece of toast into it does not immediately spring to my mind as a way to enjoy either, it was actually quite a common practice at that time. It is thought to be due to the quality of wine and by placing a piece of toast in the drink, it was supposed to soak up some of the acidity and improve the flavour.
Ideas for toast as a complete meal
Today toast can be eaten with just about anything and by adding a variety of toppings, toast can become a healthy addition to any meal of the day. It not only looks appealing but can go a long way to ensuring that you eat a rainbow and get the necessary variety of nutrients.
Some of the most common spreads I use are nut butter or chia jam but for something a little different, I have started to use a tahini-based spread which can be topped with figs or fruit which I first came across in Deirdre Nielson’s cookbook, Eat More Plants.
Recipe for Tahini and Banana Spread:
In a small blender combine the following:
- ¼ cup tahini
- 2 small or 1 large ripe bananas
- 2 tsps lemon juice
- 1 tsps coconut sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
Spread on toast and then add sliced figs or any choice of fruit and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Good toast usually starts with good bread. There are so many tasty breads available and my current favourite is a red fife sourdough which comes from a wonderful bakery which is a 40km bike ride, one steep hill and a ferry ride away. It is totally worth it!
Although I believe most people enjoy toast warm, there were obviously certain idiosyncrasies in our family as I recall several of us preferred our toast cold. In fact, some even went to the extreme of putting it in the freezer for a few minutes after toasting, just to take the “edge” of! I must admit, I was one of the guilty ones and still prefer to leave my toast cooling for a while before eating. However, whether you like it hot or cold, have fun experimenting with all the wonderful topping possibilities out there.