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.
As any of my readers who know me personally can attest, I have an old person bedtime. I go out, but I like to be in bed by 11. Sometimes I can make it to midnight, but no later. And, if left to my own devices, I’m often in bed by 9:30.
I like it that way. I need a lot of sleep. Plus I get some good puppycuddletime in. Always a plus.
This weekend, however, it seems like my back has caught up to my bedtime. I threw it out. Like, woke up this morning and couldn’t move. I went to my parents’ house and my mom taught me some stretches. The first consists of lying on your back and pulling your knees to your chest to a count of five. The second is pulling each leg to your chest individually, and the third is pulling your pelvis off the ground and clenching your butt muscles while keeping the small of your back on the floor. They helped, but not as much as my mother’s heating pad. I sat on it for half an hour while I watched Nurse Jackie. Good show.
Finally, I could move enough to leave their house, and I stopped at the CVS to buy a heating pad of my own. I also saw these dreamy items:
Yes. Thermacare Heat Wraps! Formulated especially for my lower back pain. And in two sizes, S-M and L-XL. Convenient.
And they feel awesome. They have this little cloth thingy that wraps around your torso to hold the gel heat pads onto your body. Nothing sticky has to touch my skin, which I like. The packets are air-activated, so I don’t have to do anything other than take them out of the packaging to turn them on. And they last for eight hours. I’ve had this one on for three, and it feels fantastic. My back is still tight and painful, but not as bad as it was before!
Most importantly, they were, like, 4.99. The heating pad I bought cost 17.99. Granted, I can use it more than twice, but for the convenience, these gel things are a pretty good deal.
THANKS, THERMACARE HEAT WRAPS!!! You’re the bomb.
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.
I’m sure that most of my dear readers are familiar with the rectangular phenomenon known as “Craigslist.” It’s a site full of classifieds, stuff for sale, advertisements for jobs, and community bulletin boards.
Last week, I bought a vacuum cleaner from some man in Woodley Park. He asked me if I wanted to vacuum his living room to try it out. I politely refused. I also bought some enamel dishes from a lovely woman in Dupont Circle. She was the manager of her building, and told me about all of the people who came to her with problems that week. I love getting the cheap stuff, but I really love getting these snapshots into other people’s lives.
Anyway, Craigslist isn’t all vacuum cleaners and dinner plates. In fact, the best part of Craigslist is the “personals” section. There’s a part of the “personals” section called “missed connections,” in which people post ads about people they met or made eye contact with or drove by on the street, and hope that those people fall in love/sleep with them.
Here are a few prime examples, just from today’s Washington, DC Craigslist missed connections section.
You get the (rectangular) idea.
I read them every day, partially because I think they’re entertaining, and partially because I secretly hope that someone posted one about me. It happened once: a cab driver hollered at me. It was my proudest day.
In the spirit of true investigative journalism, I decided to post my own “missed connections” ad. After all, I owe my readers the whole story, and I can’t pretend that I have it all just because I’ve been the subject of a missed connection. I need to feel what it’s like to post one, myself.
So, dear readers, here we go.
One time, I gave a cute guy a cigarette on my way out of Target. Afterward, I kind of wished I had talked to him. I figured he could be my inspiration for this ad. I tried to take some guiding light from all of the missed connections I’ve read in my day for the phraseology, and – voila! Here is what I came up with.
My next task was to wait for the responses. Annnndddd, within literally three minutes, I received this response:
Well. Interesting. Doesn’t seem like you actually read my ad, mate, but I appreciate the email! And maybe you can take an English class or two.
According to Wikipedia, synesthesia is “a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” In other words, your senses get mixed up – colors get associated with numbers, letters with colors, sounds with flavors.
Curtis wanted me to call this post “Sextangles,” because I’m only synesthetic during sex. When I’m having sex, I see letters, numbers, colors, and – of course – shapes (including rectangles) together in different combinations. Once I cycled through a white 4, a yellow 3 and a robin’s-egg-blue 2. Once it was a magenta R and a brown L. Most often it’s rectangles, of all different colors and dimensions. They can morph from sky blue to lime green to brown to white to yellow. It’s really bizarre, and I’ve never heard of anything like it.
I won’t get too far into color and number symbolization, because there’s just too much there. Check this out for a sweet graph on the subject. However, apparently my yellow 3 makes sense, as yellow is associated, traditionally, with the number three. According to the graph, the yellow 3 means “I am centered.” If I come during a white 4, it makes sense, since white numbers suggest “I am illumined” and represent “the highest kind of understanding.” So much to unpack here.
In my quest for that highest kind of understanding, I also learned that the rectangle represents a lot, including:
- The four cardinal directions.
- The four major seasons.
- The four cosmic elements (suns, moons, planets, stars).
- The four prime elements (fire, earth, air, water).
- The four common phases of human life (birth, child, adult, death).
Rectangles’ straight lines invoke a “feeling of stasis.” So apparently when I’m seeing rectangles I’m feeling very secure and grounded. Additionally, the rectangle is symmetrical, suggesting structure, order, organization and efficiency. It is a “stable…familiar and trusted” shape that brings to mind “honesty,” “conformity, peacefulness, solidity, security, and equality.”
Add color into the mix, and rectangles mean even more. The lime green color of my rectangle suggests “possibilities, perception [and] anticipation.” Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally), lime green is also an earth color. So my lime green rectangle means that I’m perceiving, open to possibilities, anticipating, but still grounded and stable. Wow. That’s a lot to consider.
So who knows? Maybe I’m working in another dimension here. Or maybe, as Curtis suggests, I’m just mildly autistic.
Curtis and I thought we were stumbling upon a miracle when we went to check out at Target last month.
That’s right friends, we had a square bottle of coke.
At first we weren’t sure whether it was intended that way or not, but as soon as we opened it it went right back to the more familiar rounded shape. And it was the flattest Coke I’ve ever had.
Of course, this sparked some interest in rectangular cokes. So a quick internet search brought me up this beauty:
Apparently student Andrew Kim came up with this idea, it’s greener and more convenient.
Coke seems to be considering it, but no promises. Regardless, it’s pretty rectangular and pretty cool. Imagine, picking up an ice cold Coke and it always being a rectangle…dream. Also – check out the above link for some interesting debate over Square Coke.
Dr. Pepper is my favorite. First sold in 1904, it’s famous for its 23 flavors and unique, sharp taste. I love it. It’s made in Plano, Texas, and my Texan cousin introduced me to it when I was 12. Ever since I’ve been intrigued.
The cheapest way to buy soda these days is most definitely investing in a large, rectangular case of the generic stuff, usually for under $2. So Mr. Curtis and I have been on a quest to find the best generic Dr. Pepper. So far we’ve tried Safeway Select’s Dr. Skipper, Shoppers’ Food Warehouse’s Dr. Chill, and Safeway Refreshe’s Dr. Dynamite. Curtis says he’s had Walmarts Dr. Thunder, and it’s the best, but I never have and you can’t believe everything you hear – now can you?
We tasted each drink warm and cold, to see how they stood up. Dr. Skipper had a nice pop to it, with a lot of phosphoric acid, but a wet aftertaste. Dr. Chill was very flavorful, but less sharp. Dr. Dynamite has been the best, so far. The flavor is very complex, even warm, and the traditional plummy taste of Dr. Pepper is preserved.
But the quest continues. We’ve only tried three kinds of Dr. Pepper knockoffs (Mr. Pibb doesn’t even count, for the record). Have my readers tried any others?
Dear reader Mandy suggested that I look up Snapple “Real Fact” #887.
The “Valley of Square Trees” in Panama is the only known place in the world where trees have rectangular trunks.
So I looked into it. And it turns out, yes, these trees are rectangles!
El Valle de Anton (commonly called “El Valle”) is a town in the Cocle province of Panama. It has one main road and – according to Wikipedia – “a very small museum, as well as a small zoo, a small serpentarium, and a garden displaying 100 native local orchid species.” This sounds like a prime tourist attraction. Check that serpentarium!
But, most importantly, this town is home to a grove of square trunked trees.
Now let’s look at some rectangles.
These trees are members of the Cottonwood family. FYI, the Cottonwood happens to be the Kansas state tree. Here’s a normal Cottonwood:
And here, ladies and gentlemen, is a square one:
My friend Michelle pointed out to me recently that sardines come in (nearly) rectangular cases.
Sardines is also a popular kids’ game.
My ex-boyfriend used to like eating sardines because it made him feel like a giant, eating tiny tiny fish.
Anchovies also come tinned.
And here’s some kippered herring.
Are these fishy rectangles really made of tin?
My friend Andrea, always thinking, sent me a message saying she just got a Rubik’s Cube. And what’s a Rubik’s Cube? Rectangles upon rectangles upon rectangles! I asked Andrea if she wanted to guest-write an article for TTAR on the elusive Cube. Here’s her response:
“I don’t know how to write articles. But I did find some fun facts about cubes. They were discovered in 1974 by a Hungarian named Erno Rubik. He was a sculptor and architect. Originally, they were 3x3x3, but they come in sizes 2x2x2 all the way up to 7x7x7.
There are competitions involving Rubik’s cubes called speed cubing and include things like solving them blindfolded, solving them with one’s feet, one handed, team blindfolded solving, and underwater Rubik’s cube solving. There are also promo cubes, and spherical Rubik’s cubes.
That is all. Oh, but other things in my room that are rectangles include a box of lucky charms, my windows, my notebooks and school stuffs, a one dollar bill, a metal box with little bees on it, my bulletin board, and some bumper stickers that I stuck on my wall.
Yep. So that was probably not that interesting, but by far a better spent 20 minutes than the homework (also rectangular) that I should be doing.”
Thank you, Andrea. That was interesting, and now let’s explore the Rubik’s Cube some more.
So, who is Erno Rubik?
Erno Rubik (born July 13, 1944) is a Hungarian inventor, sculptor and professor of architecture. He is best known for the invention of mechanical puzzles including Rubik’s Cube, Rubik’s Magic, Rubik’s Snake and Rubik’s 360.
Wait, what are those things?
Rubik’s Cube, Rubik’s Magic, Rubik’s Snake and Rubik’s 360, you mean? Well. Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say.
“In a classic Rubik’s Cube, each of the six faces is covered by nine stickers, among six solid colours (traditionally white, red, blue, orange, green, and yellow). A pivot mechanism enables each face to turn independently, thus mixing up the colours. For the puzzle to be solved, each face must be a solid colour. Similar puzzles have now been produced with various numbers of stickers, not all of them by Rubik. The original 3×3×3 version celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in 2010.”
Here are pictures of the other three “mechanical puzzles.”
What, you want more? Okay. Here:
Super sweet blog about Rubik’s Cube gadgets (seriously).
Example: Rubik’s Cube Coffee Table
One man’s alleged solution to the Cube.
A whole site devoted to Rubik and his Cubes here.