Monthly Archives: June 2011
Bread is a staple. Toast is a necessity.
No one can get toast wrong. Or can they?
The first test arises with the yielding of the bread knife. Even the slightest of distractions could affect the outcome of this critical carving; the tut of the kettle pronouncing boiling point, the stubborn crackle of a newspaper being bent into shape. A door stop slice will doubtless end up incarcerated behind toaster bars; the price of release amounting to nothing less than electrocution. A paper thin slice, on the other hand, could lead to inadvertent arson. Best to stick to the straight and narrow.
Twist the dial on the toaster. Two? Three? Four? Most of us prefer to err on the side of caution, selecting a safe setting three in an attempt to avoid sandpapering black dust into the bin’s reluctant mouth. The popular setting ‘one’ is used to top up the crunch factor in accordance with personal taste. Choices range from Crisp Burnt to Golden Touch, Soft and Yellow to Al Dente Crunch.
Those with a penchant for stiff as a board style toast should avoid plate to bread contact at all costs. Sweaty toast is unforgivable. For a poor man’s toast rack, one might lean the sun kissed slice against a fellow member of the breakfast table entourage; the trusty teapot can always be relied upon to support a friend in need. Otherwise, a two slice crust to crust kiss will suffice.
Toast deserves the best. That means butter. Real butter. That does not include duplicitous butter that dubs itself as ‘spreadable’. Can’t believe it’s not butter? Hit yourself over the head with a frying pan and knock some sense into yourself. As for those of you out there who truly believe that bypassing the butter will accelerate weight loss, my dad being a prime culprit, well take another look at that heavily dented frying pan.
One vies for superiority, flaunting a grandiose label from an upper-class supermarket superciliously across its chest. The other stands self-assured, humble, waiting patiently. Summer fruit flavours line up for inspection on the snow covered table: Forest fruit, Peach and Cherry. Blueberry, Strawberry, Every Berry. Fridge chilly glass shields tender fruit. Armour against breakfast swords. A victim is prised from amidst the huddle of its conserve comrades then decapitated. Crimson glucose bleeds onto sharp silver edges.
The remains of the jam are scrutinised. You could probably get a generous serving if you let your knife poke around and explore each angle of the jar. But no. Alas, the proud pot of raspberry conserve nudges its way into your hazy mind like a valiant knight through fog. The scarlet jelly sighs as metal pierces silk. Pure. Chaste. Shine meets shine. There is nothing like it. A sensible hand replaces the checkered roof over its precious contents while immature fingers click the centre of the lid. A playful pop or two signals first come, first served victory.
Having endured the flames of the furnace, toast is finally rewarded. Lashings of jam transcend into a generous caress, smooth and thick, covering the entire surface area. Crust to crust. Edge to edge. Patches of creamy white butter peep through the glimmering sugar glaze, determined to behold an aerial view of the tablecloth, newly adorned with crumbs, before being blanketed in red velvet.
Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses.
“We are travelers on a cosmic journey; stardust swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”
-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Cinema Foyer. The scent of spun sugar and well trodden carpet permeates the claustrophobic space. Step up to the front of the queue. Reluctantly, you purchase your extortionately expensive tickets for the film whose name you have trouble recalling under pressure. You wait for the question that will ensure your dignity remains intact:
“Can I get you anything else?”
A pretence at unexpected consideration follows, littered with the customary ‘ummmms’ and ‘aaaaahs’ as you inspect the golden treasure that teases you through the sticky-hand glass. Refusal is out of the question. An affirmative nod stalls the usually adolescent attendant as you peruse the prices, furtively comparing them with the size of the paper bags.
A hushed deliberation between you and your guilty looking friend ensues. The debate is always the same. Medium or large? The large is only 30p more expensive, it’s ten times bigger than the medium, we don’t have to eat it all, popcorn really isn’t that bad for you, it’s like having a bowl of cornflakes…
“Okay, yes, we’ll have the (ahem) large popcorn please. To share. Obviously.”
The next part of the popcorn buying process can be quick-fire reply easy or compromisingly painful. This is entirely dependent on whom you have bestowed the honour of receiving the free counterpart of your precious ‘Orange Wednesday 241′ code. If life were fair, your friend would concede willingly to your decision to live on the wild side by combining sweet and savoury. Life, however, is not fair; a mantra drilled into you as a kid as a last ditch attempt to curtail a supermarket tantrum on the ‘I want one of those’ aisles.
“Sweet or salt?”
A jarring chorus delivered in unison cries: “SWALT!”
Raised eyebrows. The obligatory act of martyrdom fills the next minute or ten, then follows the breakthrough that gives compromise the cold shoulder.
“Make that two large popcorns, one salt, one sweet.”
You smugly decline the offer of the Coca-Cola that’s twice the size of your head; two more modest bottles of sugary fizz snuggle stealthily beside crumpled receipts and a phone that claims to be more intellectually advanced than Einstein.
Two tickets balance precariously on the yellow mountain and so begins the impossible task of surviving the journey into the womb-like depths of ‘Screen 3′ without allowing any bids for freedom or suicide attempts to take place. Those lucky or unlucky enough to escape digestion, jump ship and land safely before being stamped into gold dust.
Muscles melt into velvet darkness. A firm hand cuddles the bundle of golden crunch protectively to your chest, perching innocently on your lap like a happy child.
The first chosen few are scooped hurriedly into sweaty palms, the incongruent corners of each morsel hugging the other to form an edible jigsaw puzzle. Their siblings, nestled safely at the bottom of the bag, tremble in anticipation of their fate as appetites fluctuate and flounder.
Tastebuds delight at the miscreant piece of corn that dares individuality by dressing itself in a coat of clashing sugar or salt. Some take it too far and, having enjoyed the warmth of the oven for too long, sport an audacious black whose bitter aftertaste assumes residence at the back of your tongue.
Etiquette dictates the cessation of crunching amid the silent pauses between advertisements. Yes, that’s right, even if your mouth is full to bursting, your jaw locked around the gradually disintegrating corn and that bold speck lodged in your windpipe is threatening an embarrassing eruption of coughs. A collective inhale of breath lasts an eternity until earbusrting sound engulfs the night and stifles unappetising noises.
Before the opening scenes tumble into your field of vision, your half empty or full (delete as appropriate) bag has been demoted to the gummy floor and your tummy is grumbling in admonishment.
Good film. Should have got the small popcorn.
Do yourself a favour. Next time, just stay at home.