– Considering toast

Toast, from toastalicious.com

Toast, from toastalicious.com

I was thinking of a croissant with my coffee, but then I smelled toast. “Ah, toast.” This was as I got within 20 feet of the snack bar in my building at 9am this morning. I gave in to the toast impulse — I smelled it, I pictured it, I heard the sound of the word in my head — and it seemed foolish to get what I suddenly no longer wanted.

At my desk, I ate the toast. I drank water and sipped coffee but did not look at papers or compute while eating. I stared at the wall; I thought about toast.

Henry James said that “summer afternoon” are two of the most beautiful words in the English language. I cannot disagree. Yet, I’d like to add “toast” to a short list of beautiful, evocative words. Dr. Poppy, in her response to my post on snacks, reminded me of its sensuality and charm: “simple but… sustaining.”

And yet, I was thinking as I ate my toast, do writers always use toast as a detail to convey the same feeling? Is toast a cliché? Would it be possible to ruin toast for a reader, or at least subvert it?

Examples:

At the last minute, she put toast under the pillow. All night, her hand worried it and not the hardened blisters on her wrist.

Their naked bodies pressed together, only Donna’s toast came between them: scratchy, buttery, and smelling of last night’s onions.

Before he tucked the dead squirrel into the shoe box and interred it behind the dog house, Little Guy lay freshly made white toast in the box’s bottom. The toast’s firmness supported the stiff body; a smear of blood seeped into the surface crumbs.

The doctor recommended toast in the sneakers overnight, to deodorize them. “And soak those feet in vinegar, twice a day,” he added. Joe would try anything.

Would the reverse also work? Could you take a noun with negative associations attached to it — like pus or viscera — and make it lovely?

Hmm. It seems easier to try to ruin something than it is to repair or beautify something else.

9 thoughts on “– Considering toast

  1. Yes, toast is versatile, as is your post. Another thought it inspires is about the subtle variation of toasted baked goods. Some people may not care whether they have toasted croissant, bread, or bagel, but they’re so different. It’s like shades of color. If you need a warm gray, a cold gray simply will not do.

  2. Toast holds a place in my heart, too. One of the sounds that reminds me the most of my childhood is that of burnt toast being scraped. My mother, wonderful as she is, managed to burn every slice of toast she ever prepared for me or either of my brothers. If you ask either of them about it they will confirm the memory!

  3. Omigosh, I got quoted in your blog! Fun! I have to say, those ideas on how to ruin toast… well, they didn’t exactly ruin toast, but they definitely forced me to think about it differently! For some reason, the one about the toast in the box with the dead squirrel really got to me. Well, and the last one, too, about toast in sneakers. Something about the bread being both soft and absorbent. Ewwww!

  4. Aghh! Those little vignettes are so good. Now I’ll always have the toast worried beneath the pillow, blistered wrists, white bread toast in box, naked bodies and scrape-y crumbs—in my memory. I love good writing.

    Yes definitely good writing can make negative-connotation names and words positive for us. Kafka made elbows and corridors, smelling of dank sweat, sexually attractive to me. Nabokov can make overweight flesh, or greasy hair desirable. “Chain link” or “piss” can become newly American beautiful in a good short story. This should be a writing assignment.

  5. girldogtorch — I love the sound of “chain link” together. (Not so much “piss” on its own.) Sonically very pleasing.

    drpoppy — Let’s see what you do with this writing assignment. 😉

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