Archive for July 22nd, 2009

toast

We got a request recently (7/18/09) for more articles on Toast. Since we wish to keep our vast readership happy, here goes. Instead of digging up new information on toast (and believe us, there’s not much new since the Peking toast uprising of 2007) we decided to reprint a couple of excerpts from the what is thought to be the seminal work on toast, Butter & Jam Men: Dragging Toast into the 20th Century by Rikki Rachtman (Simpleton Press, 1972):
The modern age of toast began in the 1890’s when Brooklyn born Lentil McPhee the son of persian and irish immigrants started experimenting with toast production. “In the old days” said McPhee “people would usually make toast on a giant bonfire. most places would have a part of town reserved for a constant toast bonfire. There would be two or three men to mind the fires, Toast-Minders they were called. The townspeople would bring their bread for toasting and the Toast-Miners would have giant iron grills set up in and around the bonfire. Everyone thought this was fine but I knew there had to be a better way.” Mcphee went and built the first modern multi slice toaster in 1894. It was made of pig iron, was as big as a city block, ran on coal and made an astounding 5,000 pieces of toast every 45 seconds. “Of course we didn’t always fill it to capacity, but on holidays we had that thing cranking. One Easter we made 750,000 pieces of toast. Let me tell you, toasting was dangerous work, it was as hot as a volcano, and we lost more than a few men to it.” McPhee sold his toast through A&P food stores where it would be bought and reheated at home. He also had McPhee’s Toast-Carts, horse drawn carts that “Toasters” would sell from. “The Toast-Carts had coal warmers on them and the Toasters would hawk them on the street, fixing the toast with butter for three cents a slice or strawberry jam for four cents. Butter and jam together was five cents and was called a “Kings Hat” because it resembled a crown.” McPhee later talked about the end of his toast empire, “It was rye toast that killed us, we were strictly white and whole wheat toasters but there was a rye toast movement and we didn’t see it coming, and then pumpernickel toast was the final nail in the coffin. Pumpernickel toast! have you you ever heard of a thing so dunderheaded. Of course by that time Edison had invented an electric toaster and people could make toast at home but it lacks the specialness, the grandeur and the zazz of toast from a cart.”