We have all heard people hoisting a glass and toasting someone or something. Why is it called toasting and where did toast come from? You might remember my column published October 19, 2015 “The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread” where I explained how pre-sliced bread came into being. Now I am continuing the bread theme.
First, lets define toast. According to the Free Dictionary by Farlex : As a verb – “1. To heat and brown (bread, for example) by placing in a toaster or an oven or close to a fire. 2. To warm thoroughly, as before a fire: toast one’s feet. As a noun – 1. sliced bread heated and browned. 2. Slang One that is doomed, in trouble, or unworthy of further consideration.”
In a second listing as a noun – ” 1. a. The act of raising a glass and drinking in honor of or to the health of a person or thing. b. A proposal to drink to someone or something or a speech given before the taking of of such a drink. c. The one honored by a toast. 2. A person receiving attention or acclaim: The toast of Broadway.”
Let’s take a look at the etymology and history of the word toast according to Wikipedia. The word toast comes “from the Latin torrere, “to burn.” “The first reference to toast “—in print is in a recipe for …Oyle Soppys (flavoured onions stewed in a gallon of stale beer and a pint of oil) that dates from 1430.” Toast was used to flavor drinks in the 1400s and 1500s, but the toast itself was thrown away. “in the 1600s, toast was still thought of as something that was ” put into drinks.”
Even Shakespeare got into the act in his play The Merry Wives of Windsor back in 1616 when the character Falstaff says: “Go, fetch me a quart of Sacke [sherry], put a tost in’t.” Of course, today we consider toasting someone as high praise as in toasting the bride and groom at a wedding reception.
That is the background on the derivation and various meanings of the word and now let’s take a look at the history of the toaster. Throughout history toast was made by slicing a piece of bread and putting it close to but not in a fire. Today we have devices from the simple two-slot toaster to fancy specialized toaster ovens. How did it all get started?
According to Wikipedia the toaster was invented in 1893 by Alan Macmasters in Edinburgh, Scotland. The website of The Scotsman, Scotland’s National Newspaper, publishes the Scottish Fact of the Week. The January 7, 2014 edition featured the electric toaster. The writer, Peter Simpson, explained that MacMasters came up with the idea of an electric toaster and contacted R.E.B. Crompton, an electrical engineer, to help him develop a workable toaster.
They called it the Eclipse and started producing toasters. It didn’t go as well as expected for these two inventors. It seems that the iron wiring they used to make the appliance’s heating element melted very easily and the result was catching things near the toaster on fire. Also, since there was only one heating element the toast had to be turned by hand so that it would face the heating element. The second problem that arose was that electricity was not widely in use back then so that limited the number of potential buyers to quite a small number.
Quoting the article “American companies soon began to develop the idea further, swapping the iron for more stable metals and refining the design of their devices, until the first truly modern toaster was created by Charles Strite in the early 1920s.” Strite filed for the patent for his pop-up bread toaster on October 18th, 1921.
Of course, today we have a multitude of types of toasters and toaster ovens to choose from. What kind do you have?
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