Language, Common Law, Individual Rights and Toast

The weirdest thing about the history of toast is that while scorched bread has been around for millennia, it was only two hundred years ago that anyone hit on the idea of spreading butter over it. For most of human toast-making history people just ate the stuff plain, stuck on stick or a spit, held out over an open fire. Then in the Middle Ages honey became a popular addition, followed soon after by sugar pastes, dried fruits, spices and nuts. The 16th century saw the rise of meat toppings and hashes. The 17th, cinnamon, sugar and wine. Finally, by the dawn of the 18th century the perfect fusion of bread and dairy fat was achieved: hot buttered toast.

That critical leap was made the English, a people who have been positively fixated on toast for most of their history. Exactly why no one can say, but it is the English love of toast that led to its adoption as a staple food in the colonies. True, not all colonials (or former colonials) reach for the butter dish when the toaster pops, some in the southern hemisphere have a thing for yeast residues. Yet the basic principle of a minimally adorned slice of toasted bread remains the same. It makes one wonder: of all the gifts that have been passed down to the English-speaking world by our mighty parent culture, which is the greatest?

12 thoughts on “Language, Common Law, Individual Rights and Toast”

  1. We Antipodeans always apply butter before the Vegemite. They go together like bacon and eggs, like Sonny and Cher, like strawberries and cream, like Tony Romo and choking, like, er, you get the picture…

    1. Hey, watch your own football why don’t you. He was voted most valuable offensive player for December, let’s just leave it at that, K? The rest we’d just as soon keep out of the public eye.

      – J

      PS – Didn’t know butter came first. Thanks!

  2. True, not all colonials (or former colonials) reach for the butter dish when the toaster pops, some in the southern hemisphere have a thing for yeast residues.

    Oh Joe, what have you done? Now we will have that eternal discussion about the various merits and otherwise between Vegemite and Marmite.

    On your head be it

    BTW, I prefer Vegemite, on toast, as flavouring in meat stews, casseroles, I draw the line at vegemite milkshakes and ice cream though. 🙂

    1. Marmite is the only of the two spreads I have any experience with. I ate it as a university student in Britain in the 80’s. A thin scraping over very crisp toast was only barely stomach turning. Vegemite I have yet to try.

      I had no idea there was a rivalry, though it makes sense. Thanks, Warren!

      – joe

  3. This was a big thing when I lived overseas (Israel). The Yanks had to have their peanut butter, the Aussies, Kiwis, and Brits had to have their vegemite and marmite, which most Americans had never heard of. Back then it was hard to find the stuff, and too expensive to buy if you did find it, so when people went for home visits these items were high on the list of “please bring back with you.” (I’ve always thought that vegemite and marmite smell like vomit, so I’ve never been able to even taste them.) I remember roommates making toast over kerosene heaters and then slathering that stuff on it. Very nice with a cuppa tay, they say.

    1. Yes I confess it’s not totally without its appeal to my mind. Just mostly. 😉

      – Joe

    1. Ha! Never knew there was a shortage. But that’s interesting about the difference. It was my impression that most of the world’s Marmite was made in NZ. So I guess the Brits make their own?

      Cheers and thanks!

      – Joe

  4. The ONLY time it is ok to have vegemite on toast without first applying butter is when you top it liberally with avocado, and even then I am sure some would still use butter.

    1. Interesting to know, Jodie. I shall impress the next Aussie/Kiwi I meet with my knowledge of local tradition! 😉

      – Joe

  5. Good grief! What are Vegemite and Marmite being mentioned here? It will not be long before Joe invents the peamarcronut! (A croissant doughnut with peanut butter pastry cream and a glazed Marmite coating!) Okay Joe, on with the Pecan Pie – enough with this toast thing.

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