English Things I Miss, Part 1: The Toast Rack

Here’s a new, non-regular segment for you that perhaps will help me cope with the grieving process of no longer living in London: English Things I Miss, subtitle, Though Not Necessarily So Much That I Would Move Back to the God-Forsaken Land of Clouds and Complaining.

First English Thing I Miss:
The Toast Rack
It might seem random that I would say “toast rack” as my first choice in things to miss from Over There. But consider the simplicity of this device and the sheer madness that it is still in use.

The Toast Rack is exactly what you think it is, for anyone who has never been to England. It’s a toast holder. You can see from the image that it is doing its job, with a fairly simple design.

I can attest, from our travels to many Bed and Breakfasts, that the toast rack is still widely used by British people. They want their toast orderly, I gather, they want it in triangular shapes, and they want it stone cold.

Our good friend Sarah from Maida Vale explained to me the reasoning for the toast rack. “It’s to keep the toast from going all soggy! If you stack the toast, the condensation gives you a soggy mess!” I pondered the alternative–toast crumbs covering my shirt–but I didn’t mention it. I’d like to keep Sarah as a friend.

Sarah admits she herself does not use a toast rack. Instead, she has invented a highly-elaborate system for cooling that involves leaning two pieces of toast against each other in teepee formation. Once you have mastered the balance of bread, this system can be used during the dangerous “condensation phase” of cooling. Once it has passed, you must then quickly butter and shove the toast down during the remnants of the “warm phase.”

However there are flaws. This technique does not allow Sarah to enjoy only one slice of bread, ever, or to have her toast in neat triangles (cutting time might use up the last of warm phase). So that might explain why her version hasn’t caught on.

I never owned a toast rack, but I admire the idea of it. The toast rack and the solid cold, hockey-puck like bread you eat from it is a symbol of the British people’s unwavering fortitude and dedication to tradition. Over here, Colin and I just waited 8 weeks or something for an expensive Kitchen Aid toaster to get delivered. I don’t know why. But the toaster does have a fancy “warming” button! I haven’t asked Colin, for fear he might beat me with the toaster, but what the hell is that for? Isn’t the toaster supposed to warm the toast?

I am not sure, but I am sure that I would be a better, stronger, more resilient person if I stopped whining, ate my toast cold and organized, off a rack and complained about the weather instead.

  12 comments for “English Things I Miss, Part 1: The Toast Rack

  1. mctwo
    November 21, 2008 at 7:51 am

    I think you have to own a toast rack AND egg cups. The two go hand in hand. You need your toast soldiers crisp and not soggy so you can dip them in your soft boiled egg resting in your egg cup. I prefer warm buttered “soggy” toast and eggs over easy, but then I am not British.

  2. Greg Phillips
    November 21, 2008 at 9:02 am

    You bought a new KitchenAid toaster? It wouldn’t be a KMTT200 would it? Because we just got a new toaster too, and that’s what it was. Coincidence? Genetic predisposition and convergence?

  3. November 21, 2008 at 10:33 am

    This is absolutely one of the reasons why I love you SO MUCH!

  4. November 21, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    We took my daughter to England, Scotland, and Wales over the past several summers and in our total four or five weeks in the United Kingdom, none of us ever–not even once–got to eat a HOT piece of toast. It was enough to make me not want to go back. You know?

  5. Colin Phillips
    November 21, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    First of all, I would never beat you with the toaster. I can barely lift the thing. I haven’t tried the “warm” feature, but I assume it’s supposed to hold the toast in a warm state without cooking it.

    The toast rack is a product of a mass cultural fear of toast sweat. I can understand and I do empathize, but I think that cold toast is a bit of an over reaction.

    To Greg … we got a 4 slice model: the KMTT400SS. It does a good job, but it sure ain’t fast.

  6. November 22, 2008 at 4:45 am

    Chris, that is something that should be written about extensively in guidebooks– the warnings of cold toast. It’s the little things that shake to the core!

    Michele, I also prefer warm soggy toast. I use the “stack” technique to my advantage.

    I wonder how many other blogs discuss “toast sweat”?

  7. November 22, 2008 at 5:21 am

    Separated by a Common Language had a long debate about toast racks. I think the argument is still raging…

    May I defend my nation and say: toast racks are only used by hotels. Ordinary brits eat their toast off a plate like everyone else. We got a toast rack as a wedding present and use it for storing bills. If you like your toast both warm and non soggy, take it out of the toaster and mash it lightly to let the sweat out. Or eat it faster.

    That is all

  8. November 25, 2008 at 10:32 am

    LOVE this! BIG smile…

  9. January 16, 2009 at 10:43 am

    I came to this post via Middlezonemusings.com and thoroughly enjoyed your post. I must admit that we in Germany know toast racks too. But mostly toasts are presented in small baskets with cloth on it to keep the toast warm. And we don’t cut them in triangles!

    • January 23, 2009 at 10:12 am

      Ulla, I love the basket thoery, though having a small mouth (physically small, aurally BIG!) I like the toast triangle. I think I just like triangles better than squares in general.

  10. January 17, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I like to toast two slices at a time. Then they stay relatively warm while I eat them. As the second piece is almost eaten, I pop another slice or two into the toaster.

    By the way, I also got to you via Middlezonemusings.com. Glad to find you!

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