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Lake Cabin Toast

by Victoria Tkachuk  
12/09/2008 / Writing


I can't say it was the first meal I ever cooked.

My mom let me help her in the kitchen a lot, stirring or adding an ingredient while she assembled the rest of the recipe. I boiled water for pasta, even fried onions in olive oil for spaghetti sauce to pour over those noodles. This introduction to cooking has stayed with me since childhood, and these memories are treasured as I now cook for my own family.

But the first thing I ever made entirely on my own was toast.

It may not seem dramatic or impressive enough to even mention, let alone describe in detail, but the privilege of adding a perfect slice of toast to an already ample feast was the icing on the cake for me as a kid.

Speaking of cake- and bread and all those other grain foods- I didn't eat them much in the last five years. A late-maturing sensitivity to wheat has forced a drastic change in my diet, so much so that for a couple of years I didn't eat my beloved toast at all. Along with toast itself went the fond memories of making it: the aroma, yeasty and warm, wafting from the toaster, melting butter on its crusty top and, then, lavishing it with jam, or sometimes honey, until it dripped off the sides into sweet pools on the plate. I had forgotten how simple, how delicious, how filling a couple of thickly buttered slices are for breakfast, or even as a late-night snack.

When rice bread somehow bounded into my life, all those toasty memories came flooding back.

The best of these is from my grandpa's lake cabin.

Grandpa was known then for his extravagant homemade breakfasts at the cabin, replete with fried potatoes, eggs to order, Chicago sausage, thick-sliced bacon and, of course, toast. These meals were, as I recall, made only at the cabin and with the most rustic of implements: a large, cast-iron skillet, a dull paring knife, a possibly rusted spatula, aged enamel plates and mismatched silverware for serving.

While my older sisters always seemed to get stuck with peeling potatoes, taking orders or setting the table, Grandpa bestowed the honor of making toast on me at an early age.

I know it doesn't sound like much, but for a seven-year-old it was practically a dream come true. Me? In charge of an electric device? That I can cook something in? Unsupervised?!

When I took the job I did not realize how difficult it would be. Timing the toast to be done at the same time as the rest of the food (which I wasn't cooking) was a learned talent. I burned many a slice before getting it down pat.

And how much to make? I could simply guess, and end up with too much or too little, or perform the laborious task of taking orders. My cooking style is, was and will be "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants," so I let my fervor for the job triumph over my sensibility.

Soon, therefore, my unsupervised enthusiasm became a recipe for overabundance. I would make an entire loaf of bread at a time, turning each piece into a happy golden brown before stacking it on a large serving platter.

And so, with threat of relinquishing my position as toaster to someone less deserving, I agreed to take orders after all. I didn't complain too much, and no one wanted to take toast away from me anyway, since I loved making it so much.

The only other thing I remember about these lake house breakfast feasts? My Dad and I were the only ones who ever ate any of my perfectly made toast.

If you reprint my article to a website, please e-mail me to let me know: velcrotkachuk@gmail. I'm trying to keep track for my portfolio. Thanks!

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