Toast and Tea
One of my writing friends, Cath Mason, is a poet. Lest this conjure an image of a clichéd fright speaking in sing-song doggerel about spring flowers, let me assure you: Cath is a good poet. Funny, sharp, clear-sighted. She writes about peculiar and very specific things, such as a baking potato that jumps out of its own skin in the oven, or the octopus in a German zoo that makes a habit of rearranging the furnishings of its tank. Her website is here.
She's the kind of person for whom friends clip odd articles from the paper. She dips into esoteric books on quantum physics, fractal geometry, the mating habits of songbirds. Recently, she revealed that she'd learned the answer to this question: "What strange South Asian mammal smells like a batch of fresh-buttered popcorn*?" and that she could imagine creeping through the jungle, sniffing, and saying, "Is someone making popcorn?"
(*Answer: the Asian bear-cat.)
Cath and I meet for writing sessions when our schedules permit. Sharing a table at a coffee shop and hunching separately over our notebooks, we come up for air and company every few hundred words.
One morning, she told me that one of her great and abiding joys was tea and toast.
She's from Lancashire, in the northwest of England, which anchors her opinion with a certain gravitas. It was not just the crunch, she said, and the strong flavour of tea (it's hard not to adopt the British spelling to align words with accent), but the moment itself: the house quiet and herself alone with her mug of tea and a piece of toast.
I rarely have toast. French toast, yes, of course: as means to a maple end. And of course, toast is the only way to corral a BLT. But toasted slices of bread? Solo? Buttered? That's just crazy indulgent.
And yet. Today I found myself watching the toaster-oven do its slow thing: glowing and incinerating invisible crumbs, bending the air with heat. I took a sip of tea and wondered about this imprecise process. Not knowing how the toaster oven -- set midway between "Light" and "Dark" -- would perform, I couldn't let my attention drift. As it is wont to do.
It's a vocational hazard for writers, daydreaminess. I would never describe her as ditzy or absent-minded -- still, Cath does seem to save her deepest attention for the things that most catch her interest. Like strange potatoes and jungle creatures that smell of popcorn.
Keeping an eye on the untried toaster-oven, I wonder: is close observation part of what brings Cath joy? To be present during the transmogrification of plain bread into something golden and fragrant?
While I pondered toast and attention and writers, the toaster oven tried to do its darnedest. The aluminum body barely containing a dragon's instincts to singe and carbonize. I prevailed. The result was lightly toasted, a slice crispy yet tender, with a perfectly melted skimming of something butteresque. It was sigh-worthy. Absurdly gratifying.
Perhaps tea and toast is but a minor joy in the wider constellation of wonders stretching around us, still, it deserves its moment of appreciation.
1/31/2014 03:33:20 am
My mouth is watering. I am reaching toward the toaster, hubbie's homemade bread in hand, while my tea is brewing in its china cup. My "sod off" to today's clod and rain.
1/31/2014 05:21:45 am
1/31/2014 03:37:17 am
p.s. "sod off" is a poetic, English, expression meaning "go hence and return not whence you came."
1/31/2014 05:22:58 am
Also, as in "Sod's Law," right?
1/31/2014 03:44:30 am
"cloud" does not rhyme with "sod", had to take poetic licence.
Sarah Ellen Smith
1/31/2014 05:53:34 am
2/1/2014 12:25:02 pm
Thanks, Sarah Ellen.
2/1/2014 03:01:02 am
Wow, Amy! Beautiful text! And I'm very glad to see that we share a friend and a muse :)
2/1/2014 12:26:40 pm
Thanks for the kind words, Simone!
2/6/2014 01:52:54 am
Beautifully written Amy - I can picture my sister Cath with that tea and toast on many occasions. You make it sound so mouth-wateringly good I may have to partake in a slice myself!
2/6/2014 12:18:36 pm
2/9/2014 09:14:31 am
tea and toast yes - but most of all when I think of Cath I think of laughter.
2/10/2014 01:16:28 am
3/10/2014 01:35:53 am
Amy, what wondrous writing about something so common place! Also, you captured a bit of Cath's essence which is magical. Thanks for the beauty of your words and for making Cath known to the world. She is a wonder!
3/10/2014 01:52:34 am
Aw, jeepers, Annie D!
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