Soul Food: Schmancy Toast

Schmancy Toast

By Jen Manglos Rancho Capistrano, Retreat Center, Jen.Who doesn’t like toast?  Despite gluten’s recent bad rap, toast remains a simple, tasty breakfast food.  Of course, it all depends upon the toppings.  Just butter?  Meh.  But add some fresh jam or peanut butter and you have a delicious way to start your day.  Now, I haven’t had toast for breakfast in a very long time.  My body gets angry when I don’t start with a decent amount of protein, so that has re-shaped breakfast time for me.  Yet, on the rare occasion, a warm piece of toast is just the best thing ever.

Earlier this year I read about another food trend on the grow – toast bars.  Yes, you heard me correctly, toast bars.  Honestly, I thought the idea was ridiculous.  I mean, it’s toast.  How do you turn that into an artisanal culinary experience?  Last month I visited a coffee shop that ended up having a toast bar (Lavender and Honey Café in Pasadena).  I was curious enough, despite my skepticism, and decided to explore this new hype. Toast

First thoughts?  The toast was fabulous!  But my immediate next thought was, anytime you put peanut butter and Nutella on warm bread (so that it gets nice and melty), the result is amazingness.  The toast itself, was toast.  It was fresh bread, but nothing that extraordinary.  So, despite a delicious snack, I remained a toast-skeptic.

I decided to do a bit of research on the toast trend in hopes that it would help me understand why this was a thing.  Interestingly enough, I discovered I wasn’t the only one who found this trend a bit absurd.  The first article I read began by noting that it is, “a trend that has been the subject of eye-rolling and has been laughed off as ‘twee’ and very San Francisco.” Another article wrote about how angered some San Franciscans have become over toast.  Yet, for the coffee shops that have added a toast bar to their menu, the demand is great.  So, for all our complaining, that isn’t stopping us from enjoying our schmancy toast.

I was still skeptical; until the latter article went on to describe an encounter with the woman behind this toast fiasco: Giulietta Carrelli, the owner of The Trouble Coffee & Coconut Club, and the originator of the toast bar trend.  Growing up, Carrelli’s family struggled financially.  There were no cakes, pies, or cookies.  Instead, cinnamon toast was her special treat as a child.  As I read this, I thought back to my own childhood.  We weren’t as strapped for cash, but I do remember the comfort of a piece of cinnamon toast.  Warm and happy thoughts washed over me.  But her story doesn’t end there.

Carrelli struggles with mental illness and as part of her process in keeping safe structures in place she opened Trouble Coffee.  After a life of running away from place to place (due to her illness), she discovered that it was much more challenging to run when she surrounded herself with people who knew and cared about her.

Well, after reading that (and I’d highly encourage you to read the full article), my opinions on toast changed.  Sure, I still think it is a bit ridiculous, but I also now have a soft spot in my heart for the way that it has brought together a community.  I love that it’s not just about toast, but rather it is about a story.  A story of the simple comforts in life and of the power of being known.

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