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?