Randy and I would sometimes wind up at Narnie and Grandpa’s during breakfast on the weekends or over the summer. Breakfast was a formally informal affair. There was a small rectangular table in a nook that was created by a corner of the house and a half wall that separated it from the living room. It was off to the side of the kitchen. The corner walls were essentially windows. One side looked out at the hummingbird feeder and the fig tree and the other looked out at the garden. There was just enough room for the table and the chairs. When a chair was pushed back just enough to allow a person to either sit or excuse themselves, it then rested against the wall unless you were the lucky one to sit on the kitchen end of the table. But, that was reserved for Narnie as she had to be able to get up and down easily to retrieve stuff from the kitchen. The table wasn’t very big and was circa 1950s as I recall. The type with the aluminum or stainless steel band that had been tacked to the edge. It was constructed of that super dense particle board; the kind that had a mass about 100 times greater than the wood from which it was derived. It was also always covered with one of those vinyl table clothes that had cotton somehow attached to it on the table side. Those table clothes were always so soft.
Breakfast was usually bacon, eggs, coffee, and toast. Remember the days when toast was used to sop up the runny yolk from a fried egg?
In the modern age, we think of toasters as spring loaded and timed devices where we drop in 2 slices of bread, press the button, and in a predetermined amount of minutes, two pieces of toast emerge. There is no user interaction whatsoever apart from pressing the button down.
Grandpa had one of those old table top toaster/broiler ovens. It had a metal tray with a wire rack that was just big enough for two pieces of bread. In the tray beneath the wire were toast crumbs at varying stages of toastedness. Some were light. Some were carbon black. Protruding from the center of one side of the tray was a single black plastic handle. The kind of plastic that you don’t see anymore. That heavy, dense phenolic plastic that had a glittery crystalline look when it broke in two. On the inside top of the oven was the single electric heating element.
I remember Grandpa turning on the oven and then just sitting there . . . the oven had to preheat. But, not in the baking sense. He was just waiting for the heating element to get red hot. With the element heated and two slices of bread on the tray, he inserted the tray into the wide open mouth of the toaster oven. There was no door. And the tray did not act as one. There was just a rectangular opening right into the blazing hot oven.
Grandpa would sit parallel to the table so that he could cross his legs and have his left arm resting on the table. He and Narnie might chat about the cows or whatever and then he would look over at the oven and slide the tray out. He inspected the toastedness of the bread. If not enough, he simply slid the tray back in the oven. This would repeat for a couple of minutes. When the top side of the bread slices were properly toasted, he would turn the bread/toast over and proceed to toast the other side. There was never a hurry. Once both sides were toasted, he would butter the top side, which was the side that had just finished toasting. And it was real butter. Not margarine. There’s a funny story about that, but I’ll save that for a later day. The buttered toast then went on a saucer and the next two slices of bread went into the toaster oven. This all continued until there was enough buttered toast for everyone at breakfast to have the usual 2 slices. And it was usually right about the time that Narnie finished the eggs and bacon and everything was at the table.
I never really thought about Grandpa making that toast until we moved aboard Emet. We had a modern 2 slice, timed, push-down lever toaster for a while. It got in the way too much as it had to sit on the “counter” which was really the top to the ice box/fridge. We got rid of it and I had to find another way to make toast.
Funny how getting rid of a modern convenience brings back warm memories as one attempts to return to the old ways when modern conveniences were not available.
Jodi and I both enjoy toast for breakfast. Sometimes, it is breakfast. Without a toaster, I had to think of another way to easily make toast. We have a small cast iron skillet and I figured that would serve wonderfully. And boy has it. It makes the BEST toast. I simply butter one side of the bread, place it face down in the hot skillet, let it fry up and brown a bit, then flip the bread over to lightly brown the other side. Of course, that single sentence does no justice to the actual process. There’s a lot of checking and flipping and adjusting the propane burner and buttering the skillet a bit and checking some more.
I realize now the patience that Grandpa exhibited while making toast in his toaster oven. Not the kind of finger tapping patience where you have to make yourself wait. I’m talking about true patience. The kind where you surrender yourself to the process . . . no matter how long it takes. You don’t try to artificially rush it. You don’t try to quicken it. You don’t attempt to hurry it along. You simply become part of it.
It’s amazing how in this age of labor and time saving devices, we have so little time. And yet, we have the exact same amount that we’ve always had each day: 24 hours. Grandpa had the same 24 hours and he had a hundred plus head of cattle to be fed, a garden to be tended, fence to walked and mended, a yard to look after, beaver dams to fret over, and he was still working his job.
With all that he still found the time to not rush his toast.