Don't argue with me: the best way to eat toast is darkly toasted, almost burnt. (The toast, not me.)
The problem with this, though, is that I usually can't wait long enough to get that perfect nearly-black hue, when the smoke-alarm is precariously close to blasting and the first spirals of smoke are rising from the red coils. I don't consume much bread, so it lives in deep freeze. And takes longer to toast in its frozen state. And, the rest of my meal — an omelette, a bowl of soup — is already hot and ready to go while I tap my foot and peer anxiously at the toaster in anticipation.
I know, I should time it all better, but I don't. Blame a rampant hunger, a long day at work, a glass of wine. Whatever. All I know is that I end up waiting, or trying to wait, and somewhere between 40 and 50 seconds, I cave and hit the "up" button and the inadequately toasted slices of bread pop — POP! — into the air at least 6 inches above the toaster and fall back askew: a disappointment in iron-poor brown, a "milk-toast" toast. Lacking backbone. Lacking burn.
Tonight was no different. My beef stew: peppery, steaming. My toast: in progress. But I had time to think while I waited:
1. There was my ex-husband who insisted we spend $$$ on a toaster. I disagreed. "Look," I said, "it's a set of electric coils in an insulated box. The bread doesn't care what the box looks like or how many settings (bagel? pastry? waffle?) it boasts."
2. Never put a knife in a toaster in an attempt to extract toast while the toaster is plugged in. How many times had I violated this cardinal rule, and lived?
3. What was it that had been too close to the toaster and melted onto it? And how many years ago had this happened? Had I tried recently to scrub it off? (Yes, I answered myself, I had.)
4. How many settings, that I never use, are on the blender? And don't they all do the same thing: blend? (Either the blades turn, or they don't)
5. (Isn't this damn toast done yet?)
6. When was the last time I opened the little door on the base of the toaster and shook out the crumbs?
7. Is the butter soft enough to spread?
8. My ex-boyfriend and his current 20-years-younger-than-me girlfriend are in London, and I wondered if they've been sitting across from each other at breakfast, holding hands across the table, sleepy after a night of no-sleep love-making; between them, a plate of phallic sausages oozing grease. Fried eggs. Half a watery-tomato each. And the requisite toast rack with upright slices of pale, cooled white-bread toast.
9. How long has it been since I've waited for my toast to properly almost-burn?
10. Too long.
11. How long has it been since I've slept with a man?
12. See #10.
13. There it is! The curl of smoke!
And there it was, the almost-charred, the just-about-scorched, cauterized, dessicated slice of multi-grain bread.
Perfection, rubbed with just enough butter. It had just the right amount of crunch. Enough, in fact, to reel me back from leering dangerously-close to thinking about my love life. Maybe this was the reason I've not let my bread linger in that insulated box long enough: a little time to think can be a dangerous thing. Let's just stick to marginally-toasted bread, and leave the romance for another time.