Toast seems, at first glance, like something too ubiquitous to even post about. However, the humble, rectangular toast is such an important part of our culture that I just could not ignore it.
Toast is made by exposing a slice of bread to heat. Toast is an essential breakfast food, often served at restaurants with a breakfast order without even asking for it. Many people enjoy toast with butter, and some even put jam or jelly on top. In England, orange marmalade is a popular toast-topper. The French like Nutella on their toast. Additionally, dry toast is a lovely option when you are sick to your stomach (read: vomiting).
But let’s look deeper at this rectangular breakfast treat. What is the chemical process that turns bread into toast? Wikipedia tells us that toast becomes toast due to a Maillard Reaction. A Maillard Reaction is “a type of non-enzymatic browning…[resulting] from a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, usually requiring heat.” It was named after a chemist named Louis-Camille Maillard. Ok. Clear enough. Now for the nonsense:
“The reactive carbonyl group of the sugar reacts with the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acid, and forms a complex mixture of poorly characterized molecules responsible for a range of odors and flavors. This process is accelerated in an alkaline environment (e.g., lye applied to darken pretzels), as the amino groups are deprotonated and, hence, have an increased nucleophilicity. The type of the amino acid determines the resulting flavor. This reaction is the basis of the flavoring industry. At high temperatures, acrylamide can be formed.“
If you understand that, God bless you. I certainly don’t. But I figure I must have some science freaks among my readership, and babies, that was for you.
Since I found out I could no longer eat gluten, I’ve really missed toast with butter. Gluten-free bread is pretty universally nasty. But I’ve recently found that when toasted, or made into grilled cheese, it’s palatable. I bought a beautiful red toaster off Amazon for 14.99, and I’ve become a toasting queen. I ate toast with butter for breakfast this morning, in fact! And it was delish.
Part of the charm of toast is that it has other diverse uses than a breakfast staple. Some sandwiches are traditionally made on toast. I have fond memories of eating tuna on toast at the pool with my parents. Just writing about it makes me want one rull bad. BLT sandwiches (Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato, for those who have lived their sad, sad lives without ever experiencing one) are also traditionally made on toast slathered with mayonnaise.
I would be remiss not to address some more unconventional rectangular toasts in this post. First, let’s cover French toast. French toast consists of a slice of bread soaked in egg and pan-fried in butter. It is often eaten with maple syrup. In French, they call it “pain perdu,” meaning “lost bread,” because they used the stale bread that they otherwise would throw away and made it into something edible. Because of the inclusion of the egg-soak, French toast actually has a bit of nutritional value.
Another rectangular toast variation is Melba Toast. Melba Toast used to be one of my favorite snacks. It is super, super dry, and very thin and crunchy. There’s a special flavor to it that is probably also a result of some sort of Maillard Reaction, and I’ve always really liked it. Wikipedia tells us that Melba Toast “is named after Dame Nellie Melba, the stage name of Australian opera singer Helen Porter Mitchell. Its name is thought to date from 1897, when the singer was very ill and it became a staple of her diet. The toast was created for her by chef and fan Auguste Escoffier.”
All in all, the humble, rectangular piece of toast is a staple that has survived through the centuries. It is crunchy and delicious, especially when bathed in butter. Thank you, toast, for sustaining us until lunchtime. Thank you for improving our BLTs. And thank you for settling our tummies when we drank too much the night before.
Graham crackers, classic rectangular snack, have a fascinating history. We’re going to turn to our good friend Wikipedia to learn about it.
The graham cracker was invented in 1829 by a Presbyterian minister named, predictably, Sylvester Graham. Originally, they were made with graham flour – a course and bland flour. Graham invented these crackers as part of his “Graham Diet,” intended to curb “unhealthy carnal urges, the source of many maladies.” I assume he made them rectangular because the rectangle is the most sensible of the shapes. He was fairly obsessed with masturbation, and convinced that a bland diet could suppress the sexual appetite. Praise Jesus.
Fortunately for our sex lives, graham crackers are now made mostly from white flour, Graham’s great enemy, and sweetened with refined sugar, another great evil. They are often fed to children in daycare or preschool, although why that is, I’m not sure. Probably because they are bland, enjoyed by everyone, and easy on the stomach. Also, they dissolve in your mouth, so no choking hazard (by the way, that dissolving factor was always my favorite part of the Graham cracker experience. I liked to hold the cracker between my tongue and the roof of my mouth until it dissolved. Yum!).
The best graham crackers I’ve ever had are sold at Modern Times Coffeehouse, underneath Politics and Prose bookstore in DC. They are made by Pollystyle, a local bakery owned by a lovely woman named Polly. They’re perfectly slightly crunchy, only slightly sweet, and unbelievably delicious. I miss them dearly. They used to taste great with a cup of coffee (something else I’ve given up – it makes my nose and gums itchy). So, so yum.
One great use of the graham cracker is a graham cracker crust. Although a pie is (rarely) rectangular, it is still a delicious, if inferior, treat. The graham cracker crust is a classic crust on a cheesecake. I love it for chocolate pudding pie. And I’ve recently found it to be a delicious crust for a key lime pie. It’s usually made by mixing butter (and maybe some salt) with craham cracker crumbs, which is then pressed into a pan, and baked for a bit. Very yum.
Perhaps the most culturally significant use of the graham cracker is in the classic campfire treat called the S’more. The rectangular S’more is made of a toasted marshmallow (I’ve always preferred mine charred) and a bit of (rectangular) chocolate bar squished between two graham cracker squares. It’s not particularly gourmet, but anyone who’s had one would acknowledge that the S’more is extremely sweet but pretty delicious.
Thank you, Reverend Graham, for developing this delicious rectangular treat. Sorry it hasn’t curbed my libido.
Ah, saltines. Food of the Gods, when the Gods have the flu. Or feel like eating some soup. Bland? Sure. But salty? Absolutely. So salty. The pretzel ain’t got shit on our friend the saltine when it comes to the salt factor.
Now, I wasn’t allowed to have junk food growing up. Remember Combos? Those were a no-go. Bugles? No way, Jose. And don’t even start with me on Doritos. So, I ate a lot of saltines.
And thank God for that.
My parents must have foreseen my personal values and standards from an early age. After all, what do those junky snacks all have in common?
They’re not rectangles.
That’s right, folks. Not. Rectangles. So, fuck them, they have no place in this blog.
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s get back to the rectangular topic on hand – the saltine.
According to our helpful pal Wikipedia, a saltine is “a thin, usually square cracker made from white flour, shortening, yeast, and baking soda…lightly sprinkled with coarse salt.”
The saltine was the first cracker to be leavened with baking soda. It was invented in 1876 by F.L. Sommer and Company, a company based out of Missouri. At first it was called the “Premium Soda Cracker,” due to that baking soda, and later became called “Saltines,” due to its use of baking salt. The saltine caught on brilliantly in America, and Sommer’s business eventually merged with other companies to become part of Nabisco in 1898. Now you can find Saltines in America under the brand “Premium,” by Nabisco.
Keep educating us, Wikipedia.
After the term “saltine” began to be used to refer to all crackers of this sort, Nabisco lost its trademark. In 1907, the word “saltine” was in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, defined as, ‘”a thin crisp cracker usually sprinkled with salt.”‘
And there we go. A brief history of the saltine.
So how has the saltine permeated pop culture?
Well, most restaurants serve a plastic-wrapped packet of two saltines with soup. The idea is that you crumble or dip the saltine into the soup, making it perfectly water-logged and delicious. I have fond memories of this treat from my glutenous days.
[I must include a warning here. The saltine has a hexagonal cousin, the oyster cracker. These babies are also often made by Premium, the same company that makes most saltines in the US, and are often served with soups. Do not be fooled. Oyster crackers, while similar, are a far inferior, unquadrilateral product. In other words, they need to back the fuck off the territory of the saltines - the soups of America deserve the best.]
Saltines are also often recommended to people with stomach viruses. They are extremely bland, and are very easy on the digestive system. Also, delicious, but usually only on the way down.
Additionally, there exists something called The Saltine Challenge. The goal sounds simple – eat 6 saltines in 60 seconds without drinking anything. Just six crackers? In 60 seconds? What pussy can’t do that? BUT WAIT. Saltines have a secret power, and that power is efficiently soaking up the saliva in the mouth. So, after chewing the saltines, the resultant crumbs are impossible to swallow, and many people fail. Oh, saltines, you sneaky bastards.
In conclusion, saltines are an important and valuable part of American culture. They have a proud history of feeding the sickly and soaking up the soups of our great nation. Thank you, saltines. It’s been so, so real.
My parents’ apartment in New York is at 74th and Amsterdam. Less than a block away is perhaps the best chocolate store I’ve ever been to – Jacques Torres. Jacques Torres has become a huge, popular fad in New York. Everyone is kind of obsessed. And my family is no exception.
Their chocolates are their most popular product. And for good reason – they’re really good. I’m sure they’re all delicious, but I’m a dark chocolate girl, so I just stick to trying those varieties. Sometimes my Gramma Joan, who also lives a block away from Jacques, gives my parents assortments of these delicious chocolates. I obsessively eat them all, so I’ve tried a lot.
You can buy boxes of mixed chocolates for exorbitant prices, but they’re so rich, that I like to go into the store and just order one or two a la carte. I think they’re about $1.25 apiece. My personal favorite is the basic Dark Chocolate Ganache, which is just pure dark chocolate goodness. It’s creamy and perfectly bitter. However, other close seconds include Earl Gray and Red Wine. Seriously yum.
I also tried their caramels last year. I have been a deep lover of salted caramels since I spent the summer in Brittany, France after my junior year of high school. However, in the caramel area, Jacques disappointed. I like the purity of butter, sugar and salt in a real salted caramel. Jacques added some cinnamon, which just took away from the delicious creamy flavor and made things too blunt (For the record, Starbucks, before it took over the world, used to make a delicious caramel. My dad used to take my brother and I to share a caramel three ways [yes, we had to split our caramel three ways] every Sunday morning. So yum. They don’t exist anymore).
My parents are also big fans of their other varieties of chocolate covered goodness – especially the dark chocolate popcorn. I’m a purist, though. I just want my Dark Chocolate Ganache and a glass of cheap bubbly, and I’m happy.
Nothing is more comforting than a good plate of Jew food. I make an amazing chicken soup, and keep mason jars of it in my freezer at all time. Four dollars worth of chicken backs and some carrots, onions, and celery make for several quarts of what my mother has always called “the Elixir of Life.”
A brisket is a cheap, big cut of meat. It’s not great unless it’s been cooked for a long time – kind of chewy and tough. But, slow-cooked in liquid for a few hours, it becomes really tender and yum.
Recently, I got my aunt’s very traditional brisket recipe. I’ve always loved her brisket, and, upon receiving a Le Creuset from my parents for my birthday this year, I finally asked for the recipe. It is super easy and super delicious. The meat, slow-cooked in the oven for four or five hours, comes out incredibly flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth tender. I’m a sucker for slow-cooked meats – I love a good Coq au Vin or stew. Yum yums.
Here is Aunt Devorah’s recipe as she gave it to me:
I lb of Brisket for about every two people. It really shrinks after cooking.
Lots of onions, chopped
Spicy deli mustard
2 cans of tomato juice
Place brisket in baking pan and smother with mustard. Cover with onions and
mushrooms and then pour the tomato juice over everything to fill the baking dish and
cover the brisket as much as possible.
Bake at 350 for at least two hours and then slice thinly and return to baking dish. Bake at
least two more hours. I let it bake all day (even five hours) and replenish the tomato juice
if it doesn’t cover the meat.
The onions and mushrooms are to taste. I use a pound of mushrooms and enough onions
to cover the meat and fall into the tomato juice. It’s whatever you like.
This is best reheated for an hour or two the next day and served.
I doctor the recipe a little bit, using Dijon mustard and adding three chopped carrots to the pot. Otherwise, I stay completely faithful to the recipe. It is unbelievably easy and a classic old-world Jewish recipe. And really any cook can do it, provided you can find a nice cut of brisket (Washington folks – I go to Snider’s supermarket in Silver Spring. Their meats and produce are super cheap and super fresh).
Good luck, friends. Happy slow-cooked meating.
This blog, Food On My Dog, is precisely what it sounds like – pictures of food on some dude’s dog. It combines two of my favorite things, though, those things being food and dogs. This pooch, Tiger, has a sweet, sweet face and incredible self-discipline. Buckley would never, for example, tolerate slices of turkey on his face without eating them. Literally never, ever.
There are 2 FAQ’s on this site. They are incredibly appropriate to the target audience of Food On My Dog. The first is, ”Does she get to eat the food on her head?” Duh, anyone interested in seeing food on a dog’s head is concerned that the pup gets to eat it after being so well-behaved! The other question is, “What type of dog is she?” (Staffordshire Terrier and American Bulldog, or, more generically, a Pit Bull). Finally, the FAQ section culminates in this reassurance: “Yes, I will give Tiger love, attention, kisses, and belly rubs from all her fans.” Lucky pup. That’s a lot of love, attention, kisses, and belly rubs.
Now for my personal favorites:
You can also get a “Food On My Dog” t-shirt. This is my personal favorite design.
Anyway, here are some kisses from me, Tiger. You could teach Buckley some lessons in patience. Good girl, boo.
My day had a very disappointing start.
Yesterday, I went to my friendly Petworth farmers’ market. I bought some pickling cucumbers, because I’m trying to perfect the New York Deli full-sour pickle. I bought some really delish apples and pears. I bought farm-fresh, allegedly cruelty-free eggs (I know, I’m a sucker), and I bought some fancy bacon. Yes, it cost $5.25, but, I figured those pigs were happy before they died, and it would probably be super delicious.
This morning, before I left the house, I thought I’d make myself a gorgeous cholesterol-heavy breakfast. My dear readers may not know that I have, in the past year, discovered a gluten allergy, so I can’t eat toast with my morning meal. Instead, I just make more protein. I scrambled up three eggs and started to fry up some of this fancy-ass bacon.
My first concern sprung up when it started to turn grey, instead of brown. However, since I bought the bacon frozen, I thought it might just be a casual, unimportant side effect of the freezing process. Dude, I don’t know science, or any of that shit. It seemed like a possibility. And the meat didn’t smell rotten, or anything.
So, I let the bacon keep cooking. By the time it was done, it seemed pretty normal looking.
And then I bit into the first piece.
It tasted like clay. Seriously. Like, you know how in Ceramics, you’d accidentally get some clay in your mouth? Maybe that didn’t happen to everyone. It definitely happened to me. More than once. Anyway, it legitimately tasted like that. Dry. Crumbly. Grey.
It was gross, in other words. And I was angry. Because, like most normal people, I love me some bacon. And, when I spend almost 6 bucks on my bacon, I expect to have an overwhelmingly positive bacon experience. It was not so, this time.
I’m going to call out the vendors of this meat, J&L Green Farm, because I think people should be accountable for their pork. I’ll let my readers know what comes of it.
This website’s tagline is “We find the coolest stuff,” and it’s true. This site has some seriously sweet kitchen must-haves. And by must-haves, I mean, “It’s so awesome and useless. I must have it.”
Let’s start with something rectangular of the Asian persuasion.
Here is a rice cube, along with some of the results of its cubing action.
Pretty fucking sweet, right? Every time I go out for sushi, I wish it were more rectangular. Well, cubular, if I’m being specific. Finally, here’s a way to achieve that goal. Praise the Lord (of rectangles large and small).
This next product is something I’ve been meaning to feature for a long time. Presenting:
The Egg Cuber.
Now, we all like hard boiled eggs, right? Ok, I don’t like them that much, but they’re protein-rich and fill me up. The one time I do enjoy a hard boiled egg is in a salad, preferably a Salade Nicoise. That, my friends – that’s yum. Imagine the rectangular Nicoise masterpiece we could make with this cubed egg! I’ll post a sample recipe below.
Salade Rectangulaire, par Eliza Hecht
Two hard-boiled eggs, cubed and sliced into squares
A small, rectangular tuna steak
Olives, pitted, and with the corners cut off.
Green beans, with pointy ends cut off, leaving little rectangular strips.
Potatoes, cut up into one-inch cubes.
Lettuce, sliced into squares or small strips.
Boil the potatoes. Steam the green beans. Sear the tuna in a cast-iron pan. Boil the eggs. Rectangularize all components. Toss all ingredients in a simple vinaigrette. Serve on a rectangular platter for best effect.
Dude. What a rectangular triumph.
No, the Princess Party isn’t necessarily a rectangle (unless it’s held in a rectangular room). But instruction manuals are rectangles, and this is a How-To. Enjoy with your usual rectangular vim and vigor.
My friend Ariana and I decided to have a grown-up princess party. We went to the craft store and covered everything in pink and purple tulle, pink tablecloths and gems. We invited 11 princesses to come celebrate with us and bought floor length pink dresses. We colored, we made tiaras, we ate pink food.
What, you want to throw a grown-up princess party yourself? Well, here are some important components.
Our delicious (and dangerous) Princess Punch consisted of Cran-Raspberry juice, Ginger Ale, vodka and pink sherbet. The sherbet definitely made the punch, so don’t leave it out. I believe we used Edy’s Berry Rainbow sherbet, which worked very well. It adds a nice foam at the top of the punch as it melts.
Pink Mac and Cheese
We took white Annie’s Mac and added some pink food coloring to it – voila! Pink mac and cheese. This was a super hit. Everyone loved it and it took us less than 10 minutes to make. We started it just before our guests walked through the door. Three boxes for 11 people was just perfect.
Make sure this is pink pink pink! Ari and I used a pink strawberry cake mix and pink strawberry icing. We cooked our cake in the shape of a cupcake with the help of this mold. We filled the center with whipped cream and sprinkles, and then – most importantly – we shoved a Barbie into the cake (inspired by Martha’s version below).
The cake served as her dress. Then we covered it all in pink, silver and pearl sprinkles. Here’s our version. Guests loved it!
There can never be too much glitter or too many gems at a princess party. Ariana and I went to Michael’s to stock up on pre-cut foam pink glitter tiaras. We also bought gems and glittery stickers ranging from castles to crowns to ponies. Our guests loved making their own tiaras!
Ari and I supplied glittery make up (lip gloss, nail polish and eye shadow) from Claire’s for our princesses to use. For ourselves, we bought long fake nails with glitter and gems on them.
This is perhaps the most important part of a princess party. Ari and I went to Value Village in College Park and bought our perfect princess dresses for less than six dollars apiece! So no one ever has to go broke as a princess – princesses can thrift, too!
Last Friday night was Date Night for Curtis and I. I went all out cooking, making appetizers, dinner and dessert. Okay, so the dessert was Fruit Cocktail.
For my appetizers I made little mushroom toasts and…radish squares. Inspired by the French love for fresh radishes on bread and butter.
First, I cut some wheat bread into small squares.I gave the bitty breads a light coating of olive oil, and then put them into the toaster for about three minutes, until they were golden brown. Then I sliced two fresh radishes into discs and placed them on the toasts. I then put some sea salt on the radishes, covered them again with a bit of olive oil, and voila! I had delicious radish squares.
The sharp, bitter taste of the cold radishes tasted fantastic with the warmth of the croutons, and Curtis absolutely loved them. Now I make them for myself when I want a nice, light snack.
Fun fact: Radishes (although not rectangular) actually have some significant nutritional value. They are chock full of Potassium, Folate, Magnesium and Vitamin C.