In days of yore, toast was a hazardous affair, a treat won by singed fingers and hot hands, one taken from skewers and wire frame baskets held over campfires and open flames.
Ancient Egyptians enjoyed toast as early as 3,000 years before the birth of Christ. The word “toast” itself comes from the Latin word “tostum,” which means to burn or scorch.
Bread toasts as a result of the Maillard Effect, a chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars which results in a pleasant brown color.
Easy and painful as it may be to toast bread through the radiant heat of an open flame, it was surprisingly difficult to develop the technology to safely make toast at home, and early toasters were prone to rust, malfunction, and eventual burnout as wires melted and caught on fire.
This problem was solved by a young metallurgist named Albert Leroy Marsh, who invented an alloy of four parts nickel to one part chromium and created the first metallic combination suitable for use as a heating element. For this, Marsh was acclaimed as “father of the electrical heating industry.”
Toast has many uses aside from its use as a breakfast food. Burnt toast renders to food a bitter quality prized in some areas of cooking. It is also an excellent source of charcoal should your dog have conspicuous bouts of gas. In a pinch, burnt toast can also be used as a rudimentary water filter.
An urban legend proved true is the Buttered Toast Phenomenon, which suggested that a piece of buttered toast dropped by accident was more likely than not to land buttered side down. For years this was assumed to be incorrect and that standard 50/50 odds would prevail, and this was verified in a series of experiments; however, recent studies have found that toast dropped from the height of a breakfast table at the normally held angle en route to the human mouth landed buttered side down 62% of the time. This latest research won an Ig Noble Prize but remains in dispute.
Today, toasters are readily available at any local hardware store, department store, and at many online sources such as Amazon. In fact, the current market trend is for novelty toasters, those which toast your bread and leave an image for you to enjoy. I have no idea how or if this effects the absorption of butters or fruit preserves, but in any case, there are many to choose from, including the Selfie Toaster, which was the original inspiration for this dry piece.
In case you are interested, here is a link to the online Toaster Museum, which has many other fun facts about toast.
And for your enjoyment, here are some images of the impressive range of toasters available to us today.