It’s not that I lack ambition, but some days, just getting the perfect piece of toast is a major achievement.
It’s like a duel between me and the toaster. It’s like Wile E. Coyote versus the Road Runner… and this is from someone who doesn’t really have a competitive streak.
It really boils down to choosing the correct setting number on the toaster, based on the type of bread that I am using on that particular day. Given the variables involved, some days I feel like I am playing the “Safe Cracker” game on The Price is Right.
When I correctly choose the setting number and out comes a perfect piece of toast, I feel like Rocky in that scene when he successfully runs up that staircase at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
When I don’t get the right setting, the overcooked, petrified toast makes me feel defeated like Charlie Brown, after Lucy takes away the football just as he is about to kick it across the field.
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if we could just put bread into the slot, pull down the lever and walk away, knowing that a perfect piece of toast will be ready moments later?
I imagine that some of you might be asking, “Is your toaster broken? Mine comes out fine.”
I am pretty sure that my toaster works fine too. The problem is that my bread choices are constantly evolving. If I stuck to the same kind of bread every day, a perfect piece of toast could indeed be feasible.
However, with new gluten-free bread options showing up on store shelves all the time, and with the quality of bread on a steady increase, I take great delight in trying different types.
But each time I switch, it’s like starting all over again in finding the magic number on the toaster because a “5” for one kind of bread, might require a “3” or even a “7” for a different type of bread to reach the same degree of browning.
When you add to the equation a very sensitive smoke detector with the power to wake up households in the neighbouring village, I need to approach each new bread experiment with a conservative approach to toasting.
To be safe, I would rather try toasting on a “3” setting and pop it back in once or twice more, and try with a “4” setting the next time, rather than risk setting off the smoke detector and having the volunteer fire department called to check it out.
But in addition to the change in breads, there are other factors that come in to play like is it a moist bread, is it a humid day, is the house dry, was the bread frozen, do the ingredients make this a drier type of bread than the others? And of course, the most important factor: what degree of toasting does one like?
My preferred setting is Goldilocks, middle of the road… golden brown on the outside and like freshly baked bread on the inside. At the moment, a “5” seems to do the trick for the type of bread I am currently using.
My dad was more of a bold, borderline charcoal briquette “8” or “9” kind of guy, often setting off the smoke detector while making his Sunday morning toast… and then again on Monday when Mom and I would put our toast through, expecting our usual “5” toast but we forgot to adjust the setting from Dad’s toast the day before.
I can imagine the challenge it must be in larger households when different family members each have different toasting preferences. It must be the war of the setting dial, between undercooked pieces for those who like them very well-done, and vice versa.
Just to add complexity to my own toasting challenges, another issue develops when I buy a loaf from a bakery that doesn’t have a slicer.
I may have been sick that day in kindergarten when we were shown how to use scissors. My inability to cut a straight line has haunted me throughout life. It’s a good thing I didn’t grow up to be a fashion designer, or worse yet, a surgeon.
With the help of a long knife, I can cut a slice of bread (well… sort of). But cutting an identically thick slice is to me, the impossible dream. Naturally, in the toaster, this creates no end of mayhem as one slice will inevitably come out overdone while the other will come out underdone. If you take one slice out and let the thicker one have another round of toasting, the first slice will get cold and dry.
I’m sure my lopsided half-warm half-cold sandwiches would get me booted off any cooking reality competition show, so I don’t even apply.
Just the same, toast is such a simple pleasure and a wonderful source of comfort food. Even if I don’t get an absolutely perfect slice of toast every time, the privilege of being able to try so many different types and flavours of breads makes the adventure worth every step.
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