I’ve been a casual toast consumer since I was a kid. Wonder Bread and Sunbeam were magical words in that long-ago suburban Florida kitchen with the orange linoleum.

Not that I worship toast or anything, but after all these years of toast consumption I realize how oblivious I’ve been (albeit blissfully) to its rich history and the hard-working professional scholars out there unearthing the truth about the toaster, without which bread would just be bread.

There seems to be some debate within the Historical Toaster Community as to which was the first commercial toaster: the Hotpoint El Tosto (no joke) or the General Electric D-12. (Wasn’t that Dylan’s first guitar? Or was it a D-21… .)

New information among toaster enthusiasts has been uncovered regarding an early 1908 model “flatbed” toaster pre-dating the more well-known “upright” El Tosto. Egads! Although the GE D-12 is considered the first successful commercial toaster, a 1917 Hotpoint advertisement claimed:

“The First Electrical Bread Toaster a Hotpoint. Perhaps you didn’t know that the very first toaster made was a Hotpoint. That was 12 years ago [1905].”

But wait! A recently discovered product catalog from 1904 briefly mentions a toaster produced by the SIMPLEX Electric Heating Co. One can only imagine the crude device.

The Hotpoint people seem to have made the greatest strides in toaster-based kitchen devices, since they eventually made more than a dozen of the “El” appliances including (in addition to the El Tosto) the El Perco coffee percolator, the El Comfo aluminum hot-pad, the El Bako table-top oven, the El Eggo egg cooking machine, y mucho mas.

A possible reason for the “El” moniker? Hotpoint’s headquarters at the time were in California and company executives were said to have made frequent “business trips” to Tijuana; legend has it that donkey shows were also involved.

When I was in my early 20s I wrote a poem about toast, called “The Toast Family.” Strangely enough, this poem predated a move to my first apartment, where I subsisted for nearly a week on little more than toast and powdered instant iced tea.

That incident aside, I always thought the poem was funny and original, but I could never seem to place it anywhere. A few years later I set it to music in my friend Harv Myers’ studio in the late 80s (we caught the proverbial buzz, so the demo just kinda rambled on, but it was fun).

Anyway, I’ve been carrying this poem around with me in my head for lo these many years, and now it’s somehow made it into my novel-in-progress. And it seems to work perfectly within the story.

Hmmph.

I don’t eat much toast these days, but when I do I’m drawn toward lightly browned seeded rye that must be buttered and eaten immediately, but not so fast as to hamper enjoyment.

Multi-grain is also fine, but I have to be in the mood for it, and as long as it features a seed assortment stuck pell-mell on the crust.

Really, I’m not obsessed with toast. Honest. But if you are, you can check out fun facts and photos, or purchase your very own 2007 vintage toaster calendar (“Check out the coils on Miss May!”) by visiting the Toaster Museum Foundation.

A day after I’d begun my toast to toast post, my youngest brought this home from school.

I nearly wept. Yes, I whispered into her hair as I hugged her, I’m not alone. The world loves toast – even the little children!

Yes, as the rhyme goes, warm and dry … toast is sure to satisfy.

Indeed, T is for toast. And is it a coincidence that the word ‘art’ ends with a T? I think not. After reading this glad tiding, I see the world as somehow less chaotic, appearing now to have an intrinsic, divine order to it.

Today (another T word!) is a good day.

 

 

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JIM SIMPSON is an award-winning fiction writer and freelance music critic. A native of the wilds of Florida's Gulf Coast, he now resides on the scruffy fringes of Atlanta, Georgia.

He frequently writes about music, with his taste spanning all genres: Bluegrass, Americana, Classic Country, Alternative Country, Western Swing, Blues, Classical, Rock 'n' Roll, Punk, Reggae, Klezmer, and British Isles Folk (to name but a few).

He once sang Happy Birthday (with about 10,000 other people) to Joni Mitchell, and has seen such legends as Miles Davis, The Incredible Jimmy Smith, Rockpile, Blue Rodeo, King Sunny Ade, David Bowie, Joan Jett, Robyn Hitchcock, R.E.M., Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan live in concert. He has interviewed such musical luminaries as Those Darlins, John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, Marshall Chapman, Charlie Louvin, Derek Hoke, Jim Avett, the Secret Sisters, and Meghan McCormick.

Jim has been at work on his first novel for longer than he originally planned, and if all goes well it should be in bookstores sometime before his death.

One response to “The Art and Poetry of Toast”

  1. Jim Simpson says:

    Original comments:

    Comment by Dawn C.
    2007-01-22 20:41:53

    Yes, but how do you feel about toaster OVENS?

    Welcome aboard!

    My appetite was whetted by the “T is for Toast” poem, and now I want to read yours!

    Badly!

    In fact, I demand that you post “The Toast Family” immediately–or this piece of rye gets it! I’ll burn it so black all the scraping in the world won’t make it tasty again!
    Comment by Dawn C.
    2007-01-22 21:46:19

    P.S. My appetite was whetted! Ha!

    I kill me.
    Comment by Jim
    2007-01-24 05:47:03

    You kill me, too. Thanks very much.

    No, ovens don’t excite me the way toast does (and I’m STILL not obsessed with toast) because they are merely vehicles by which bread makes the journey to toastdom (toastness? Toast Town? toastvana? mana toastvana?).

    You’ll have to wait until my novel is published to see Toast Family. But I will leave you with this:

    God is great,
    God is the most,
    Let us thank Him
    For this toast.
    Amen.
    Comment by Rich Ferguson
    2007-01-24 06:20:38

    Hi James:

    Welcome aboard. Nice work. Yes, it’s always good to herald toast.

    Here’s my tribute…

    From Maine to Missouri
    And Coast to Coast
    With jam or dry
    People love to eat their….toes

    Hah! A fake toast poem! Gotta watch out for those buggers.

    Cheers.
    Comment by Kaytie M. Lee
    2007-01-24 10:06:28

    In the book I’m reading now, the protagonist describes a toast sandwich: A slice of toast between two slices of non-toasted bread, with ketchup or other condiments spread on internal surfaces.

    Comment by Jennifer White
    2007-01-24 10:54:56

    You just added a whole new dimension to my morning. I seriously don’t know how to exist without bread products. I’m trying to imagine my world without a toaster now. Life would be incomplete.

    Comment by Greg
    2007-01-24 14:25:38

    Jim/James – welcome to TNB. That’s another ‘T’ word…acronym…whatever.

    I toast my bread for every sandwich I make.
    Comment by Lenore
    2007-01-24 17:31:14

    my mom makes challah and italian bread. everyone was always jealous of my awesome toast.

    Comment by Jim
    2007-01-24 19:00:47

    Aww, thanks everyone. I feel so right at home here. If my arms were made of toast, I’d wrap you all up in a big toast hug.
    Comment by Carol
    2007-07-08 15:32:12

    Have you ever seen a 1916 El Eggo Egg cooker?
    Comment by Dennis
    2009-02-27 16:26:09

    I have one. Not much info available about it, but hope to find out more.
    Twice Blessed, Inc.

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