Toast racks are the most useless and pretentious item of kitchenware in existence.

Their purpose seems to be the elegant serving of toast on one's breakfast table, and perhaps to compensate for excessive buttering. So why is the humble toast rack to be counted among the myriad banes of humanity?

Well, aside from the strange vanity of having a separate ornament to perform the job of the humble plate, the true evil is this; your toast rack is a cleverly disguised cooling device! Ask any engineer to design you a passive tool for the cooling of small rectangular objects. He will surely produce something with the definite essence of toast racks.

Why were these oddities ever conceived? I suspect the Victorians and their vulgar but forgivable obsession with elegant uselessness. Their clinging survival may be attributed to the class-conscious aspirationalists. Neither the dustbin man nor the wealthy tycoon has any time for the toast rack, but the average suburbanite may consider them quite delightful.

Cold toast. It's not posh and it's not clever.

The toast rack is a tool for serving toast, keeping the slices separated from each other.

Toast is made by heating bread. Heating the bread causes water dissolved in it to evaporate away, making the toast crispy and pleasant to eat.1 Toast coming out of a toaster is still warm, so evaporation continues until the toast cools down. If the water vapour cannot escape, it condenses on the surface of the toast, making it soggy and unpleasant. This is known as 'toast sweat'.

A toast rack stands one or more slices of toast upright, so that water vapour can escape from both surfaces of the toast. If toast is put on a plate, the water can only escape from the top surface, leaving the bottom surface to become soggy. If (god forbid) more than one slice of toast is stacked on a plate, every surface bar the topmost one will become soggy, as the water vapour being produced cannot escape.

If you're worried about the heat sinking properties of your toast rack, I suggest you purchase a plastic or ceramic one. Ceramic toast racks can be pre-heated so as to keep the toast warm.

Toast racks generally look like this:

                                          ##    
                                          ##    
                                toast --> ##    
                                          ##    
      __      __      __      __      __  ##  __
     |  |    |  |    |  |    |  |    |  | ## |  |
     |  |    |  |    |  |    |  |    |  | ## |  |
     |  |    |  |    |  |    |  |    |  | ## |  | <- vanes hold toast upright
     |  |    |  |    |  |    |  |    |  | ## |  |
     |  |    |  |    |  |    |  |    |  | ## |  |
|\___|__|____|__|____|__|____|__|____|__|_##_|__|___/|
\____________________________________________________/ <- tray to catch crumbs

1 - That's not all there is to it - the heat of the toaster causes the sugars in the bread to begin to caramelise. This is what is responsible for the colour and flavour of the toast.

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