TOAST

Have you wondered why I’ve named this blog ‘Tea, Toast and Travel‘?  Well the ‘tea’ seems fairly obvious as does the ‘travel’, but ‘toast’?  I’ve had that question asked more than once. For me ‘toast’ is a warm, crunchy accompaniment to a hot cuppa tea … slathered in creamy, salty butter and, most often, a thick, sweet, fruity jam.  As a child, whenever I was sick … cold, flu or just a belly ache … my Mother would make me “toast” which now epitomizes comfort food.  I also use ‘toast’ as a category for recipes that I feel pair well with a cuppa tea … whether hearty soups or quick and easy desserts.  And this blog is meant to be about me sharing what I enjoy, so “Tea, Toast and Travel” suits me to a ….. T.

Years ago, I mentioned to hubby that I would love to open a small restaurant called “TOAST” and just serve just that – ‘toast’.   High-quality, loose leaf teas would, of course, be served too, but it would be ‘toast’ with all kinds of specialty toppings from savory to sweet.  How about bacon, avocado and poached egg on toast … or a garlicky ricotta cheese and English peas spread with a hint of lemon … or a thick slab of roasted turkey breast smothered in pan roasted drippings (yes, I used to have that same lunch sitting at the Kresge’s counter with my grandmother) … or Nutella and banana slices, a sprinkle of pecans and topped with Marshmallow Fluff under the broiler all melted and gooey?  My ‘toast’ would not be thinly sliced, pre-packaged white bread. It would be crusty, thick slices of artisanal breads from sourdough to whole grains.

When I mentioned my idea to hubby little did I know I was a few years ahead of a trend.  Today it seems ‘toast’ has already become the latest fad among foodies.  There are restaurants named ‘TOAST’ in New York City, Los Angeles, Long Island, one in Michigan, another in Charleston, and there’s even one here locally. They’re all over the country and they are all individually owned … not a chain, each one with a different image and menu.  There’s even a point-of-sale system for restaurants called “toast”.

I know trends are short-lived, but how fun to ride the wave. We’ve survived the freeze-dried coffee era, the fondue dinner party fix, the ubiquitous seven-layer dip which appeared at every social gathering.  Then there were bagels:  breakfast bagels, pizza bagels, dessert bagels, bagel chips, bagel bits.  And, of course, thanks to Oprah, the never-ending parade of cupcakes.  From smoothies to sliders, mac ‘n cheese to short ribs, we now have ‘toast’.

The word ‘toast,’ in fact, comes from the Latin word tostum, meaning to scorch or burn.  It is believed that 5,000 years ago Egyptians used ‘toasting’ bread was a way of preserving it.  (Not quite sure how researchers have been able to determine that time line.) Romans also preserved bread by toasting it, and this continued to be spread throughout Europe.  The British really took to ‘toasting’ (what goes better with a cuppa?).  And, of course, anything that was popular in Europe found its way to the Americas.  Cutting slabs of bread and roasting them on an open fire sounds intoxicating and romantic to me.

Although its only been around for about 100 years, the most common household item is the electric toaster.  Doesn’t everyone have one?  The invention of the electric toaster in 1893 by a Scotsman was thought to be the greatest invention of all time, although sliced bread wasn’t invented until 1928.  I’m not sure how popular it was, having to lay your bread against the coils and and watch it, quickly taking the bread off before it burned.  It wasn’t until the 1920s when the electric toaster as we know it today was perfected, evolving into a two-slice, pop-up device with a timer.  And with the invention of pre-sliced bread, the world was changed forever.

As a child isn’t toast the first thing you learned to make?  Ask someone who may not know how to cook if they know how and you’ll probably hear “I can make toast”.  So now how do you feel about slicing bread, toasting it under some type of heat source, spreading your favorite topping on it and then sitting back and savoring its sweet, crunchy goodness?  Serve that up with a piping hot mug of tea, and I’m yours!


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References:  Thoughtco, H2G2, Today I Found Out
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The Classic Tea Sandwich

It’s August and my garden is overflowing with cucumbers.  Yes, I’ve made pickles.  I love half sour pickles …. absolutely delicious!  And we’ve been slicing and dicing them for salads for weeks. But today, in this hot, sticky weather, I have friends coming over for tea ….. the perfect time to make my favorite classic English tea sandwich ….. CUCUMBER!

Garden fresh cucumbers

Garden fresh cucumbers

If you’ve never had a classic cucumber sandwich, you’re in for a treat.  They are so easy to make …. light, delicate and refreshing …. ideal for a summertime treat. Just keep these few tips in mind and you’ll have the perfect tea sandwich:

1.  If you don’t have fresh cucumbers from your garden or farmer’s market, use English cucumbers, which are readily available in most supermarkets today.  English cucumbers have a much thinner and easier to digest skin than American-style cucumbers. Also the cucumbers we generally see in supermarkets have been dipped in wax to keep them from spoiling.  Yuck!

Thinly sliced English cucumbers.

Thinly sliced English cucumbers.

2.  Slice the cucumber thinly and either spread the slices on paper toweling, or put them in a colander and then lightly sprinkle with sea salt.  Leave them for about an hour.  This will remove the excess water and ensure a more crisp sandwich.

3.  Always butter the bread!  Don’t think about unnecessary calories …. think about not having soggy sandwiches!  The key to good tea sandwiches is to always lightly butter the bread.

CLASSIC CUCUMBER SANDWICHES
Makes 10 finger sandwiches

1 large cucumber
1 8 oz. pkg. good-quality cream cheese
softened butter
chopped parsley
Arnold’s Thinly Sliced White Bread

Lay out the bread (thin-sliced dense white bread is best) on the counter and spread both slices lightly with butter.  On one slice arrange the thinly-sliced cucumbers.  Depending upon how thinly you sliced them, you might use 4 to 6 slices.   On the other slice of bread , generously spread the cream cheese.  Put the two together and press firmly.  Now is when you either trim off the crusts or cut with a cookie cutter.  If using a cookie cutter, be sure it’s sharp, otherwise you’ll have slippage.

If you are having a tea party, to impress your guests, you can use two different types of bread – one white, one whole wheat.  You can also lightly spread the outside rim of your sandwiches with butter and dip the edges in the chopped parsley.  So pretty!

To make ahead, place the sandwiches in a plastic container covered with a very damp tea towel.  Cucumber Sandwiches .... easy and delicious!

Cucumber Sandwiches …. easy and delicious!