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Why I Toast
published in Jan. 2005, mmartin
I toast because my elders forbade me to do so as a child. I grew up in a strict religious sect that had a prohibition against twice-cooked food. "Refried beans fuel the devil's moped!" my parents said. Coffee was verboten, since the beans had to undergo roasting AND percolation before consumption. TV dinners could be eaten only if left frozen.
"Singe not the bread of The Lord, for it has been once to the oven already." How I bristled against this injunction! Sweating inside my thick woolen breeches, chewing on a limp and disappointing sandwich, I dreamed of leaving our little village and attending a state university where (I heard) a single pizza might endure half a dozen trips into an oven before the last slice was consumed. O decadence!
A curious and restless spirit, I often tested the limits of my freedom and the patience of my teachers. Once, in Reverend Doughboy's theology class, I asked "What if you were stranded on a desert island with only pasteurized cheddar cheese to eat?" All of the town elders considered pasteurization to be a form of cooking, but only the most conservative put the cheddaring process in that category. My question was craftily designed to force Doughboy to take a side on this issue (an impolitic move on his part). However, the good Rev. neatly sidestepped the controversy. Instead of answering my question, he beat me about the head with a ram's shank.
However, I was not easily deterred. On another occasion I proposed this scenario: "Suppose a boy were to set off on some journey to do The Lord's will, provisioned with only a slice of bread. And in the course of his sanctioned travels he must stop and rest, and in doing so sets his bread down upon an unusually hot rock, so that the heat of which doth brown one side. The boy then lifts the bread to eat, but then remembers to give thanks, and so sets the bread down again, this time in opposite alignment. While in prayer the other face of the bread becomes brown, so that it is now 'toasted' through no conscious act of the boy, who only later sees what has befallen his only begotten lunch. Must the boy now forsake The Lord's mission, knowing he will be too weak if he eateth not? Or should he eat the toast for to work the task of the Almighty?"
Reverend Doughboy had no answer, and became so overwrought that he resigned his teaching post and spent his days wailing and rolling about in pig dung. In retribution, the town elders hung me by the feet from the rafters of a barn infested with screech owls. During those seven days, I wore only a tunic made of screech owl food. I considered this a pyrrhic victory.
Though our religious sect was strict on this one issue, it was surprisingly permissive on others. As adolescents, we were encouraged to indulge in the consumption of alcohol. Illegal narcotics were given to us by our parents, and we were encouraged to smoke, snort, swallow, and inject. Loud, chaotic rock music was played at recess and in the school library. Our elders told us to have sex as often as possible and with as many partners as possible, and to engage with both genders and with farm animals.
However, twice-cooked food occupied my thoughts day and night. With like-minded friends, I would sneak away from church-sponsored orgies to experiment with re-cooking. We had cobbled together a small, simple stove for this purpose, which we kept hidden in a cistern. Not knowing how to proceed, we experimented with eggs, tripe, corn meal, bacon fat, and turnips. Some we cooked a dozen or more times, until they were little more than blackened sludge. We tasted these concoctions each time they came out of the stove--out of curiosity, compulsion, obsession...
As soon as I came of age, I left my little village, never to return. I have spent my life in a rented room, venturing out only to my job at Chuck E. Cheese and to the grocery store. I spend all my free moments re-cooking and re-re-cooking my food.
What a joy to have escaped the ignorance of my upbringing. O sensuous hedonism! O earthy carbon! O toast, toast, toast!
Maurice MartinGot feedback on this page? Share it with the moocat!
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