by Ben Kritikos, with photos by Anna Jacob
Toast: widely considered by the rest of the world to be Britain’s favourite food. I once worked in a Turkish-owned Tex-Mex restaurant in Surrey. I pointed out to the manager a few errors in the “traditional” Texas-style recipes: he scoffed. “These fucking English people won’t know the difference,” he said, shooing the fly of criticism. “They think toast is a meal.” Living here in Britain, this popular European myth has been roundly confirmed.
The British love of toast is at once embarrassing and highly understandable. It depends on the toast, of course. Kingsmill is quite literally for the birds as far as I’m concerned. But even undiscerning ducks will insist on Warburton’s.
There are times when white sliced bread is perfect — for cucumber sandwiches, say. My grandmother used to make ham sandwiches with mustard and kosher dill pickles on America’s most aptly named loaf: Wonder Bread. Wonder is not so much bread as bread product, much in the same way that McDonald’s isn’t so much food as mouth-porn cum aortacide. Its lasting popularity is truly wondrous.
In the US, toast is served almost like a garnish. Similarly to the desultory parsley you’ll find on your plate, there’s usually a couple of unwarm, dry pieces of toasted white bread. They’re there for the overall effect, really. You’re not necessarily supposed to eat them.
But give me a loaf of British or Irish artisan-baked sourdough and I can make myself a proper meal. Sliced and toasted, a good loaf of bread is indeed a reason to gruffle like a Hooray Henry.