If someone were to put a contract hit out on me, it might be the easiest termination in hitman history. I’m not that hard to track down. Every morning I am in town I can be found at our breakfast joint sitting in the same seat, at the same table, at the same time, eating almost the same thing. I am a creature of habit when it comes to mornings and breakfast routines. Every once in a while, I’ll order pancakes or French toast, but usually it’s eggs, bacon, hash browns, and wheat toast. Occasionally, I’ll substitute the toast for a biscuit because I believe we make the best biscuits in town.
But toast is where it’s at for me these days. Actually, I’ve had an almost six-decades-long relationship with toast. My mom didn’t make biscuits very often when I was a kid. We were a toast family.
It doesn’t get any simpler in the food world— bread, butter, and heat. I love toast. I am a devout 59-year, dyed-in-the-grain, toast-with-butter-and-jelly-or-honey lover. I like buttered toast for breakfast, any time during the day, and for a late-night snack using the honey from my hives.
But it has to be toasted. There has to be some carbon there. Otherwise, it’s just warm bread. I don’t like it burned, but there’s got to be some color there. Oldtimers tout the health benefits of burned bread. I found articles on the Internet claiming that the carbon in burnt toast is good for you, and others that debunked that statement.
I never use margarine or any butter substitute that squeezes from a bottle or comes in a giant tub that takes up half of a shelf in the refrigerator. I am a simple man when it comes to toast— whole wheat bread, salted butter, and honey or pure fruit preserves. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
I never, ever, ever use pop-up toasters. They just don’t work for my kind of toasting. I am not a spread-the-butter-on-already-toasted-bread kind of guy. That never works either. It tears the toast and the butter never melts. I want the bread to be toasted on both sides, but I want the butter to be melted on the bread while it is toasting. That may seem a little picky and over-the-top to some. After all, it’s just browned bread, but that should let you know how much I like toast.
The older I get the less enamored I am with inanimate objects.
As a kid, I loved “stuff.” I could spend 30 minutes on the 15-foot-long toy shelf at the neighborhood Ben Franklin store. The “stuff” obsession didn’t end in childhood. As an adult I went through several phases— a compact disc phase, a clothing phase, an electronic gadgets phase, and many more. The results of all of those phases are 12,000 compact discs sitting in boxes above my garage, tons of clothes that no longer fit or are out of style, and boxes of electronic gadgets that are obsolete. All but the compact discs have been given away to charities.
My life, today, is way less complicated than it ever has been. The beauty of simplifying life is that the “small things” become more important. Enter the newest prized possession— my new toaster.
I love my toaster as much as any inanimate object in my life (and that includes my truck). I own a lot of appliances and cooking gadgets for indoors and outside, but none have given me as much satisfaction as my Breville Toaster Oven model BOV845.
For years I made my toast in the oven using the broil feature. I would toast one side and then remove the baking sheet from the oven, gently place four thinly sliced butter pats on each piece of bread, and then pop the bread back into the oven to broil the other side. That took a long time just for the broiler to preheat. Now I just fire up the countertop ol’ Breville Toaster Oven model BOV845 and get exactly what I need. Again, these days, the simplest things make me the happiest.
The toaster has a lot of features and settings. I can turn a knob to “cookies” or “pizza” but I cook both of those in the oven. It also has settings for bagels, baking, reheating, broiling, and roasting. None of those settings matter to me, I keep it set to “toast.” This thing makes perfectly toasted toast.
Have I mentioned that I love toast?
Some of the most distinct memories of my grandmother are of her sitting in her breakfast room in the morning, looking out into the backyard where something was always in bloom. Beside the table— just by where she sat— was a cart that had a small toaster oven on it. She made toast every morning and ate it with several homemade jams and jellies she kept in her pantry. My love for toast probably came from that small breakfast room.
Author’s Note: This column may have set the record for the number of times the word— or the root of the word— “toast” was mentioned (32) in 875 words or less, and it is not a paid endorsement for any product, especially the Breville Toaster Oven model BOV845.
Hattiesburg native Robert St. John is a restaurateur, chef and author. He has written a syndicated weekly newspaper column for more than 20 years.
BANANAS FOSTER FRENCH TOAST
• 6 Eggs
• 2 cups Half and half
• 1 /2 cup Sugar
• 2 tsp Cinnamon
• 2 tsp Orange zest, fresh
• 1 tsp Vanilla
• 1 stick Butter
• 1 large loaf French bread, sliced on a diagonal into 1 1 /2 inch thick pieces
BANANAS FOSTER SAUCE
• 1 stick butter
• 4 cups bananas, sliced
• ¾ cup pecan pieces
• 2 Tbl dark rum
1 ½ cups butter pecan or maple syrup
• Combine all of the ingredients for batter and stir well.
• Soak French bread slices in batter for five minutes.
• Heat butter over a medium heat in a large skillet.
• Brown the soaked bread on each side and place in a baking dish.
• Keep French toast in the oven to keep warm until all slices have been cooked.
• To make the sauce; add butter and bananas to the same pan.
• Cook for four to five minutes and add the rum.
• Allow alcohol to burn off.
• Stir in the pecans and syrup.
• Remove French toast from oven and top with Bananas Foster sauce.
• Serve immediately.
• Yield: six to eight servings.