The first toast was probably enjoyed by the ancient Egyptians, who kind of liked leaving bread outside in the sun and eventually started warming it in ovens because it just tasted better and you could make crunching noises when you ate it.
No one is quite sure who invented the first electric toaster. No one ever filed for a patent on it, apparently, and so a number of different companies jumped on board when some sap who probably died poor, lonely and sad invented it. He was said to have been an "inventor" on staff at one of the major appliance companies in the United States at some point in the early 20th Century. The invention is so shrouded in mystery and secrecy that claims from England regarding an inventive bloke having created one in 1893 were silenced by unknown means.
Other electric appliances that came along after Thomas Edison worked some magic with electricity generally pre-date the toaster. At least those "ordinary" appliances like refrigerators and coffee pots. We won't get into the strange demand for electric carving knives and fondue pots, which came much later in history. It took a while before people decided that putting a slice of bread in the oven to make it warm and toasty was too much of a trial.
Basic Toaster Functions
Since all a toaster really does is apply heat to bread in order to raise its temperature to 360 degrees Fahrenheit, creating a chemical reation that causes sugars and starches and what have you to caramelize, you could just pull two hot pokers out of a fireplace and hold a piece of bread between them, but a toaster is easier.
There are manual toasters, which are too difficult for people in today's society to use. These require one to manually place the bread into heating racks and then close your toasting unit. Now you must time the process to avoid burnt toast. These slowly evolved into the toaster oven.
Then there are automatic toasters
, the kind most are familiar with. With these you would place your slice of bread into a slot, often two or four, lower it with a spring mechanism
of some kind and it would time itself and magically pop up when it reaches the required brownness. You can even adjust it to make weak toast at the lowest setting or charred ruins
at the highest setting. You probably want to choose some setting between the two.
Toasters In The Real World
"So," you say,
"I can see no practical use for this toaster device.
I like white bread untoasted with the crusts cut off."
Hey, we're all different, so don't feel bad. Recently I heard the tale of a man name Tom who had been married for twenty years. He had a fortieth birthday party, which was a huge event in his neighborhood with all neighbors, family and friends attending. His wealthy brother even bought him a Corvette. Tom is stuck paying the insurance.
Soon after this birthday bash, Tom's wife Marie filed for divorce. As this went through the motions, it was time consuming and emotionally draining. Tom moved out of the house he had shared with his wife and two somewhat disturbed children. He moved into an apartment uptown. He didn't take much with him from the house, as he hoped to convince his wife to change her mind and take him back. He left most of his valuable possessions at the house and later had no recourse to collect them.
One of the few things he had was a toaster. It was a new toaster Marie and Tom had been given for Christmas by a friend several year before the divorce. They stopped receiving joint gifts after their separation. Tom had never made toast before, not even when he was a kid, because he was a real momma's boy and then got married while he was still in college. During college he lived at home, continuing to be a momma's boy with no hope of ever growing a spine and then married a woman who reminded him of his mother. Marie could take care of him in the same fashion his mother had. It was all about continuity.
More Toaster Essentials
The instructions were printed in Japanese and several other languages that Tom could not decipher. He was also not very good at reading or washing his clothes. Tom had a computer, which he used mostly to look at pornography and to download contemporary light Jazz music from a variety of websites that deal in that kind of thing. So, Tom turned on his computer and went to one of those sites where you can bid on used and otherwise useless items. There he found a VHS videotape of a toaster training film from 1956. He immediately placed his bid and seven days later "won" the item, after having to increase his bid from an initially sensible fifty cents to an unreasonable two hundred and seventy-five dollars, American money.
Turning on his television, Tom found himself viewing some kind of game show where people were trying to win money in some kind of quiz format. For a moment, Tom was drawn in.
"For $600, name a person associated with the rock band 'The Smiths' whose last name was actually Smith."
A young lad in a college sweatshirt hit a buzzer.
"Who is Mr. Smith?"
"Okay, let me have Urinary Tract Infections for $800."
A sharp little tune was played, accompanied by flashing lights. The host smiled. "And that's one of today's Daily Doubles. It is also a Video Daily Double. Okay, Kyle, look at this common house cat and tell me what type of illness it is suffering from."
A cute black and white kitty was displayed. Kyle stroked his chin thoughtfully. "What is a urinary tract infection?"
"Correct. You're on a roll, Kyle."
Losing interest in the program quickly, Tom changed the channel and turned on his VCR. He popped the video in and took a seat on one of the cruel metal folding chairs he had in his apartment.
A lovely woman named Mary was featured in this half-hour presentation in glorious black and white. As Tom sat back and watched her introduce him to the wonders of the electric toaster, he felt sad about his wife not being by his side. Fighting back tears, Tom watched the video hoping to learn a few things.
This segment was guest written by iceowl:
Segment One: Plugging in your toaster
(Plain text on black screen)
APPLIANCE OPERATION INSTRUCTION WARNING
These instructions contain veiled and direct references to mechanical procedures similar in scope to the act of human sex. Those easily offended and small children are strongly urged to depart the video viewing position, and return only when the requisite non-offendable adult invites them back into the room for sex-free toast operation.
(Close shot: Unopened toaster box)
Thank you for purchasing our finely engineered electric bread toasting kitchen appliance. People have been enjoying toast since the discovery of fire. By committing your finances to our product, you have not only aided in the evolution of the modern kitchen, but promote a wholesome family-oriented practice steeped in tradition and brimming with historical significance.
(Close shot: Opened toaster box. Toaster out of box)
To use your toaster, you will have to find a source of electrical current and supply it to the appliance. We will now explain how this is done in a process called--plugging it in.
(Plain text on black screen)
(Close shot: Opened toaster box. Toaster out of box)
The first step in plugging in your toaster is THE EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE.
Do you feel run down? Ask yourself, "Am I enjoying my life, or do I sometimes feel like an empty vessel yearning for the thick nectar of human existance to fill me with viscous happiness?" "Do my children have irregular bowel movements that make me frightened to stray far from plumbing?" "Will plugging in this toaster remind me through innate symbolism that my own sex life is as flaccid and lifeless as a slice of untoasted white bread?"
We strongly recommend you avoid toaster operation if your answer to these questions or those like them is "yes". Plugging in a toaster with a heavy heart can result in psychological setbacks for patients under therapy.
Everyone else can proceed to step two.
(Plain text on black screen)
(Close shot: Opened toaster box. Toaster out of box)
The second step in plugging in your toaster is THE UNGROUNDING OF SELF.
Your toaster is powered by clean, efficient, electrical energy. In order to avoid becoming part of the electric circuit the human body must not be connected to anything electrical in nature, such as a golf club or an electric dynamo.
Make sure you are close to nothing resembling lightning when beginning the plugging, and continue to steer clear of plasmas except that with which you intend to power the toaster.
Once you are sure that no electricity will leap from the toaster and into your body, you may proceed to the next step.
(Plain text on black screen)
(Close shot: Opened toaster box. Toaster out of box. Power cord visible.)
The third step in plugging in your toaster is DISCOVERY OF THE MALE AND FEMALE PARTS.
In the parlance of the modern electronic age, the piece of the toaster which will receive the electricity is called "THE MALE PART". This is because the bright, stiff, copper and steel prongs at the end of the toaster's power cord reminded the inventors of the human penis. The male end of the electrical circuit is connected to a long cord.
You may be tempted to opine on the thrill of having a spouse with a member as supple and lengthly as the toaster power cord, but we advise against this, as no known human male could meet that standard and attempting to measure one up will simply result in bruised egos and lesbian sexual activity. We cannot guarantee the quality of the toast produced under these conditions.
You will also note the receptical on your wall is known as "THE FEMALE PART." This is because taken individually, each slot resembles the human vagina to an individual so sexually berift any empty cavity reminds him of his own inability to spread his seed among females, and such is true of the inventors of the electric kitchen socket, who all died before experiencing the bliss of human connubial bonding.
Now, you may be tempted out of simple boredom or significant mental defect, to manipulate the MALE PART of the toaster power cord to induce it to produce electricity. Should you take this unfortunate course of action, you will find the similarity between a living male member and the toaster plug depart dramatically several respects, the non production of genetic products being most pronounced for the toaster plug.
It is a well known fact approved by God that in the world of electricity and electric appliances, as it is in the world of human people, THE FEMALE PART has all the power.
Having identified THE MALE penis-like part of the toaster and THE FEMALE vagina-like part in your wall, you are ready to proceed to the next step.
(Plain text on black screen)
(Close shot: Human female hand guides male plug into female socket.)
The fourth step in plugging in your toaster is PENETRATION.
It is important that the toaster MALE plug is inserted into the FEMALE wall socket in a single smooth motion, mimicing the rapidity of the chimpanzee sex act or the thrust of an accidentally over-lubricated penis. Once inserted, the plug should be left in the socket for the duration of the toaster operation. In fact, it's safe to leave the toaster plug in the electrical vagina for the duration of the life of the toaster. We assure you, the toaster is happiest under these conditions.
Under no circumstances should one attempt to remove and rethrust the plug under the presumption that the quality of the toast will improve because the toaster is happier. The quality of the toast will not improve, and the sparks you see are indeed the Lord's penalty for your sin and will cause the immolation of your home and the ruination most of what you hold dear, if not simply kill you dead, besides. In the world of your new toaster, size and motion do not matter.
This is because the people who invented your toaster were men.
(Close shot: Human female adoring her new plugged in toaster)
You are now ready to enjoy the operation of your toaster. Please call easily offended family members back into the room, or explain to your children that the process by which they came to be was much more biblically engrossing than what they just witnessed. Tell them that they should not expect a visit from the stork, and that they shouldn't play with electricity until they're ready to face the consequences of their actions.
(plain text on black screen)
YOUR TOASTER IS NOW READY FOR OPERATION. TOAST SAFELY AND
DON'T FORGET TO ENJOY YOUR TOAST!
Tom came to realize that his first problem with attempting to warm and caramelize bread in his toaster was that he had not plugged it in. If Tom had fallen back on his background as an electrical engineer with a master's degree, he might not have needed to watch that segment of the educational video.
After successfully plugging in the toaster, he resumed watching the video to see what else he could learn.
This segment was guest written by JohnnyGoodyear:
Segment Two: Safe use of electric toasters
Toasters, like ships and women, are always female. They’ve got apertures and are ever receptive. Just slip in your bread, depress her, and wait around. Don’t find a knife and force it in her if things are taking longer than you think they should. Have patience. She’ll pop out for you, golden brown, texture like sun. Unless you’ve broken her. And that can happen. Never full out wash your toaster. Toaster care is a little like nether-region personal hygiene, little and often is good, but no need to flood the area and cologne doesn’t really help. A little buffing on the outside. A little dusting for crumbs and she’ll sit up proud for you every morning. Learn to use her right.
Tom’s finding it pretty fucking hard to internalize all this toaster safety shit. He’s sitting in his undershirt thinking how safety is pretty mythic. There’s no safety in America right now. It’s all bosoms and bullets only. Sure, you can come down early, put coffee on, kick the dog to go piss outside, but then you shove the thin toast in, turn around to wonder why you’re still living in the trailer, and quickly get to smell burning and plastic and uncertainty coming up in a cloud from your toast machine. Not good. I know girls who put fried fish filets in the slot, straight down, doesn’t work any better. CDs also, bad stuff. Toasters are unsafe at any speed. You shove your fingers down in there and the lights come on all hot fire. Doesn’t even work for losing your identity because although you could burn your prints off that way you’ll never fit your face down in the slot to get it changed. I mean I like electric silvery toasters, like those Gulfstream RVs that go cross-country, but unless you have a lot of very specific toasting needs, go for the trophy toaster oven every time.
This segment was guest written by Footprints:
Segment Three: What can I toast?
Thousands of worms slithered all about the screen. Slimy, slippery, slithering worms. They slid and wriggled and writhed over each other, their purple bodies twitching this way and that...
Tom watched these thousands of worms in horror. It seemed that their disgusting bodies were covered in a thin layer of mucus. Suddenly a hand reached in and pulled one out. A particularly fat worm. The worm wriggled about as it was raised in the air and Tom realised he had been sitting on the remote.
The 'stop' button had been pressed and he was now watching some appalling program on TV where people were dared to consume things in bad taste.
Tom pulled the remote from out between his buttocks and quickly pressed 'play'. The segment on what you can toast started. The woman from before returned to the screen and said, "So you want to use your toaster, but don't know what you can toast? Well, you can toast.."
Worms. Thousands of slippery, slime-covered, twitching worms.
Tom banged the remote a few times on his leg and pressed play again. The rest of the segment continued uninterrupted.
Seriously, though, you can toast worms.
This segment was guest written by arieh:
Segment Four: Choosing the right temperature setting
"In the modern kitchen, everything is adjustible; even the toaster"
The film cut to a close-up shot of some sort of dial - around it were the numbers 1-6. Another cut revealed that the dial was attached to the toaster, on the short end.
"The dial on the end of your toaster controls how well-done the toast will be. This addiditonal control makes the toaster even more versatile and useful. "
Mary's forced smile dropped for just a second as she reached for the dial, but was quickly replaced. The screen was filled with her hand, setting the dial to '1'.
" '1' is normally the lowest setting. Bread toasted at 1 will emerge warm but not browned, similar to a heated, stale slice. "
Mary's hand, still filling the screen, turned the dial round to '6'
"The highest setting on this toaster is 6, though others may have higher or lower numbers. A higher last number doesn't necessarily mean a better toaster. At 6, a normal slice of bread will be rapidly converted into a square charcoal briquette, suitable for use as a drawing material. It can also be disposed of or composted.
The camera returned to Mary, standing with the toaster to her right.
"Most people prefer their toast done somewhere between these two points. However, the precise setting required will depend on the type of bread used, its thickness and its freshness. Challah, for example, tends to burn at the higher settings. Stay with your toaster when you first toast a new type of bread.
The shot shifted again, this time to just Mary's head, her eyes giving only the vaguest hint of incredible wearyness and self loathing.
"Remember", she said, "not everybody will share your taste in toast. Ask guests whether they prefer theirs well cooked or lightly done, and always check the dial before toasting; someone may have changed it."
This segment was guest written by Demeter:
Segment Five: What to do while waiting for your toast to caramelize
"What activities you can perform concurrently with toasting will vary, depending on both the degree of color you desire, and the meal for which you are preparing it."
Mary's faux-blonde permanent bobbed to emphasise the profundity of this point. A smile fixed itself on her face, apparently without consulting her, since it was a thing of lips and teeth only. Her weary desperate eyes were untouched by it.
" To bring a slice of fresh bread to a state of pale-goldness takes 78.6 seconds, a buff bronze just less than two minutes and a Sidney Poitier shade, a further 38 seconds. "
As she spoke, her hand swept over three plates, each containing a single slice of toast: barely browned, American Tan, Black. It hovered, then pushed the central slice, the one fully cooked but pre-charred, forward.
"Twe'll assume, bronze, and that you're making breakfast," Mary said.
"Two minutes," she repeated. "It doesn't sound long, but you'd be amazed at what you can achieve in the time your breakfast is cooking."
The video moved to voiceover, and Tom found himself confronted by a screen full of scarlet lipped-mouth, baring a double row of gleaming white teeth. A toothbrush came into shot, and soon the mouth was frothing like a rabid dog.
'You could clean your teeth, remembering to use a firm circular motion, combining up-and-down strokes with horizontal ones"
Focus switched to one of those tired, world-weary eyes. It fluttered closed, covering the pain and a cotton bud passed across it, staining the lid a threatening radioactive blue "You could apply your make-up".
A hand lifted a kettle, and a stream of steaming water flowed into a round-bellied pot. "Or you could make a cup of proper, English tea, to serve with that buttery, crunchy goodness."
The camera pulled out from closeup again, revealing Mary's whole figure. Behind her a middle-aged man stood in pyjamas and a tartan gown, his face disfigured by a leer. Mary giggled. Tom guessed it was supposed to sound sexy. Instead it contained the brittle terror of shattering glass. "Or if you are as…" there was a long pause, stretching, stretching. "fortunate as me, and your husband is … enthusiastic, you could indulge him," again that desperate giggle, "with a little connubial bliss"
The shot faded delicately to black, and lit again, focused on the toaster, at the moment the finished slices burst from the slot.
This segment was guest written by Chiisuta:
Segment Six: What to do when your toast is done
Two paintedly-perfect slices of toast flipped up and aligned themselves on the Canonsburg dessert plate that had, with the aide of TV magic, appeared at just the right moment. In this modern world, it would seem, removing things from other things has become irrelevant. If you can't have a machine to do it for you, it cannot be worth doing.
"Oh my, now doesn't that look simply deeee-vine?" crooned Mary, puckering her lips in the sweet suspense. "But now that we have toast, whatever shall we do with it?" She shrugged comically, shoulders up, hands out, monkey-like, stupid...like a lady.
The sound was louder this time, a caricature, and a cacophony of glitter confetti and crude rotoscoping flashed on the screen. When it cleared, there, large as life, stood not man, not toast, but a horrific coupling of the two, animated into life with arms, legs and horrific bubble shoes.
"I'm Timmy the Toastman!" it said in a high-pitched vibrato. "What's your name, little lady?"
"Uh, it's Mary, Toastman!" Surprise was plastered all over Mary's face like a bad facelift.
"Good to meet you, Molly! Do you like toast?"
"It's Mary, Toastman. Get it right or I'm going to scream through my Valium haze. I'm still trying to figure out if you're even real."
The Toastman backed up a few tottering steps. "That's right, folks! Everybody loves toast! Even Mo...er, this lady!"
Mary advanced a step, changed her mind and headed over to the counter where the toast on the Canonsburg dessert plate was cooling. "I'm glad you're here, Toastman. We were just trying to figure out what to do with this toast. Do you have any ideas?"
"Toast with beer, toast with rum, toast with vodka, going to get me some," Timmy the Toastman mouthed quite clearly, though a clever voice-over told the audience that a bit of butter, a bit of tomato, or maybe cheese and then some ham would be rather nice choices on a hot slice of toast.
"Mmm, that sounds yummy," agreed Mary. "But what about sweets for the kids?"
"Oh, gee, that's easy! When Timmy the Toastman is around, everyone gets some sweet, sweet ass." The word jam had clearly been dubbed over and cinnamon sugar was left floating in the wind like some poor, forgotten dangling participle. "Now come here, baby, and let Uncle Timmy take you for a ride on the Toast train."
Mary slumped to the floor and the camera panned left, back to the still bareback pieces of toast. Two white on black words flashed on the screen: "EAT IT"
"Now let's sing the Toast Song!" shrieked Timmy. "Come on all you folks at home, you can sing along!"
The lyrics appeared, black on the grey, given to the view by the cheerful bouncing of a tiny ball. The melody: up, up, up...up, up, up...down, down, down...down, down, down.
When you're hungry,
In your mouth,
Is where the toast goes!
Mary stepped aside, giving way to what appeared to be an elderly repairman of some kind. His blue jumpsuit with the words "Appliance Repairman" written on a patch above his left breast gave him away. A patch over his right breast told the viewer that his name was Earl. The size of his breasts was another story.
Giving his audience an almost toothless smile, Earl picked up the toaster Mary had been using as a demonstration model and gave the audience an enthusiastic greeting before sharing his thoughts on cleaning and maintaining one's toaster.
This segment was guest written by drownzsurf:
Segment Seven: The cleaning and care of your toaster
When the crumbs begin to sparkle, they're diamonds, now; it's time to get medieval on that appliance. You can't just get away with wiping the top off anymore. You got to turn it upside down -- reminds me of that ole joke what the Chinese man said about his wife wrecking on her bicycle, "She wind up with nasty crack up..." -- but I digress, one might say regress.
There should be a door on the bottom: WATCH OUT ! Its spring is liable to fall off, and definitely you will have a deluge of sharp bread talus burying you immediately. If the insides are gummy and burned, it means you did not clean on a regular basis, but you din't miss yo watah 'til yo well done run dry. Like creosote it will probably burn your house down.
After giving Earl a stern look, Mary forcefully guided him aside and regained her very believable smile. "Thank you, Earl, for sharing that important information with us. Please, go wash your hands. I can't believe you didn't wash your hands before coming into my kitchen."
Tom looked inside his toaster, searching for any of the gummy, burned toast remnants. He found nothing aside from a cardboard rectangle, which he wasn't sure if he should remove from the toast slot or not. Wanting to make certain, he left it in. After all, there was one in both toast slots, so they had to have some kind of purpose.
"Thank you all for coming today and watching this presentation on the use of your toaster," Mary was saying. "If you have any further questions, please ask a professional, such as the manager of your local appliance store."
End credits were rolling now, but once they concluded, the video turned to color and a kind looking man in a three-piece suit, neatly trimmed hair and spectacles took the stage. Standing in front of a little white house with a picket fence, he delivered a soliloquy with an ever broadening smile. His eyes were big and bright and his teeth had a pearly white shine.
This segment was guest written by borgo:
Bonus documentary footage: Toast in the 1950s
And then along came the 50's...
The days of June and Ward. When everbody wore I Like Ike buttons and cow licks and Howdy Doody were the acme of American culture. When fast homes and fast cars were becoming part of the American way of life. When commercials ruled your life and television took the place of the dinner table. And, for that matter, the breakfast table.
You see, there was time way back when in America, when people couldn't get their toast fast enough. By the time it got to the table, the bread had already turned cold and one thing we all know for sure is that Americans won't stand for is cold toast. We've gone to war over less. The butter, instead of melting into the warm pocket, would sit there. staring at you. It almost dared you to eat it in one cold buttery gulp. As for the jelly, well, no matter what flavor you preferred, it just didn't sit so well on a cold lump of bread.
Sure, if you were an enterprising sort, you could make your toast in the oven. Chances are though, it might've been burnt on both sides. Maybe if you were lucky enough and your mom possessed enough kitchen skills, only one side would be burnt and the other side would look as pure as the driven snow. What was a family to do? After all, we couldn't send the breadwinner and his 2.3 children out to face the cruel world on an empty stomach now could we?
With the advent of "modern" technology, along came the electric toaster. No more did the modern housewife have to fret over warming up the oven to the perfect temperature. No more did she have to take the butter out of the fridge to ensure its buttery goodness. No, now all it took was a press of the lever and a setting of the dial to determine the "browness" of the bread. The gapes, the wide eyed anticipation and hungry looks as families all over America drooled over their breakfast plates, looking in earnest to get their day off to a good start.
Can't you just picture it. The kids come rushing from downstairs, the girls in knee length dresses and white bobby socks. The boys, clad in shorts and a white t-shirts, a slingshot dangling out of their back pocket. Both of them have their book bags in tow. Their homework done, their chores on hold. Mom, since she doesn't have to rise at the crack of dawn anymore, smiles lovingly. Dad on the other hand, dressed to the nines in his his suit and tie, has a steaming cup of coffee by his side. He sits at the table, reading the morning paper, tsking to himself over all of the things gone wrong in the world, wondering when it will all be right. He tells the kids to be quiet.
And then all of a sudden, the magic sound of the toast as it rears its head from the toaster. Both sides brown like a perfect tan and the aroma wafts through the kitchen. Butter dishes and jars of jelly are passed amongst the family member in a ritual likely to be repeated in households across the country. Smiles are exchanged all around. The birds sing, the crickets chirp, the milkman comes by and drops off his fresh pint of moo juice.
The schoolbus gives its familiar beep, the kids run out the door, smiles adorning their faces. Dad casually folds up the paper, takes a last quick gulp of coffee, gives his adoring wife a quick peck on the cheek and heads off to the office. Mom, with an all knowing smile on her face, heaves a contented sigh and nibbles away at the remnants of toast left behind by her loved ones. She thinks "All is right with the world."
Toast, the perfect beginning to a perfect day.
"What the hell was that all about?" Tom asked as the video came to an end, filling his television picture with snow.
Not able to find his remote control, Tom walked over to the television. He was about to stop and eject the tape when another segment appeared, in color and filmed with some kind of psychedelic 1960s color scheme behind it. Strange sitar music played in the background as a young teenage girl in a plaid jumper stepped in front of the screen to read a poem.
Before the girl spoke, an announcer explained from off-screen what Tom was about to witness. "And now the winner of McKinley High School's sophomore class poetry contest, Steena Bergwell with a composition about toast."
This segment was guest written by grundoon:
Stage direction by TheDeadGuy
Bonus poetry reading: Tell me of the nature of toast
"Yeah, far out, I’m Steena and this whole contest is really square and so are these stupid clothes, but I've been writing poetry forever, you know? And, when I was younger, I used to write, about kid stuff like unicorns and rainbows but now, I'm way more mature."
Something jolts the camera and it spins wildly, turning the spirals of various shades of psychedelic orange behind Steena into a blur. Slowly, the camera is steadied and returns to find a disgusted Steena standing in front of her microphone.
"I wrote this poem right after I broke up with my last boyfriend, bummer, you know? He was kinda hip with his leather jacket and all, kinda really DREAMY. Kind of like a young James Dean or something, but really just a freak. We went to see 'Easy Rider' at the Cineplex, and out in his car we were making out and everything and then it just got really hot and he got my cherry. The thing was though, after seeing 'Easy Rider' I was so hot for Peter Fonda, 'cause he’s really cute and stuff and I think I was really thinking about Peter Fonda when I was with Bobby in his car that night. Not so much that other guy, the rude one with the beard, he was cool and stuff, but so not my type."
Someone clears their throat loudly off-stage. Steena looks angrily in the direction of the sound and then back at the camera.
"Okay, I guess Mr. Denning thinks I should just read the poem, he’s such a square.
"Where was I? Okay, yeah, cool, that night I made the mistake giving it up to Bobby. I didn’t like it very much, but they say the first time is always really tough. I tell you what, though, Bobby, if you are listening, when I did it with Mike two weeks later, he called it making love, so that’s another little piece of my heart you didn’t get."
Someone off-screen calls out, "Steena, just read the poem, please."
"Look, Mr. Denning, get off my case. I am not in the mood for your head games. This is very important to me, I need to get it off my chest if you don’t mind. Bobby really messed up my head. He turned me on to reading these Ken Kesey books I’ve been reading and kinda understanding, and he was into thinkin’ about stuff instead of just the usual stupid boy stuff. He smokes cigarettes, too, which is cool and got me into them, too, and not just cigarettes, but I probably shouldn’t go on with that.
"This is my poem, I call it 'Tell me of the nature of toast.'"
Brown, buttery, crunchy, soft
First, the anticipation
Wanting to be in my hands
Pushing down the knob
Waiting is o so hard
It’s popped up
Almost too hot to touch
Melting into your crannies
Seeing the final segment and watching the tape come to an abrupt end and eject itself, Tom sat with his toaster, alone in his empty apartment. The family in the second to last segment seemed so happy, so complete. The young girl's poem in the final segment brought tears to his eyes. His sadness grew and he considered taking the toaster into the bathtub with him. If he plugged the toaster into the wall outlet, filled the tub with tepid water and climbed into it with the toaster, he was fairly certain bad things would happen to him. He pondered this for quite some time before ejecting the video and turning to his favorite movie, The Prince of Tides.
"This will cheer me up," he remarked and began watching.
Many thanks to all those who collaborated on this production.
Beyond the cast of writers who contributed
There were many who offered ideas and insights.
You know who you are.
The remainder of this written by TheDeadGuy
Special thanks to kthejoker for having a sense of humor
For more on toasters: www.toaster.org
Some facts and dates were checked over there.
If Tom had bought the DVD version
It would have contained a "making of" commentary
Due to popular demand, that is included below:
This segment was guest written by riverrun:
Director's Commentary: Three Films About Toasters & What They Mean:
They say “write what you know,” and—for sure—I knew toast. It sounds a little corny, probably, but from my earliest days—staring at my distorted three-year-old reflection in the family Toastmaster, an unassuming two-slice affair, all bakelite and chrome—I knew toast would be the first step in what they’d later come to call a career.
I shot “Good Morning, Mr. Toastman” on the proverbial shoestring, using black and white reversal stock my partner and I “borrowed” from an Army Signal Corps unit out on Long Island that had nothing to do once Eisenhower was elected. The camera was an old Arri my partner had liberated from Leni Riefenstahl, who was down on her luck at that point. The instruction book was in German. Full set of Zeiss lenses. Be worth a fortune today.
We had a very short prep, if I remember correctly, and more than anything the need to “run and gun” gave the film its heart, its rhythm. Never give an artist too much money is a truism that’s proven itself a thousand times over I think. We paid the crew in toast. There wasn’t a lot of butter left after a day’s shoot. For a while we used margarine, which wasn’t like the stuff you find today, but it just wasn’t the same. The incandescent lights we had to use in those days were ruinous. You’d get one take, if you were lucky. I remember, actually, borrowing a stick of butter from Allen Ginsberg for one shot very early on, one Saturday morning. He was very unhappy about that but, you know, art is where you find it.
The entire piece, actually, was informed by the Beats, to tell you the truth. That earnest “Now’s the time, there IS no time” quality is something I really can’t take too much credit for. I was basically just the camera guy. I was pretty young. My partner, Marv Pettibone—God rest his tortured soul—had spent a pretty wasted youth on the road with Jack and Neal, and the bongos and Mary Contrary (I called her that. Loved her though. Really. She turned me on to my first four-slice brushed aluminum model. Paradise. Came from a well-to-do family out of Grosse Pointe.), Mary and the soundtrack were all Marv’s idea.
I was really happiest with the first cut, our cut, which I don’t think exists anywhere anymore. Allen, Jack, and Neal—God, we loved that guy—gave us some fabulous ideas, and, truly, I have to say I never looked at toast the same after "Breakfast with the Beats." Yeah, we called the original film, our film, “Breakfast with the Beats.” The fucking studio added all that Timmy the Toastman crap after the fact. They were worried about the “demographics” and “public perception” even back then. The only good thing I can say about that deal is I learned a lot about process photography, which would stand me in good stead on the sequel, “Toasted,” where we had a much bigger budget and TOTAL creative freedom.
"Toasted" was where I really put it together, I think. Marv hooked up with this animator who had created this cash cow, a Christmas perennial about a tortured little elf with a secret past that netted him an easy half million every holiday. He jumped in with $400,000 in seed money and the thing just took off. We got Donovan (continually toasted, that guy, very bitter about NOT being Bob Dylan as I recall) we got him for next-to-nothing because he was really into the whole Jabberwocky pastiche we had going. Mickey Rooney, a prince of the theatre to tell you the gods' honest, came on board when we used his girlfriend in the Wake Up/Break Up montage. She had a lot of talent and I think it was her idea, originally, to do that micro/macro zoom into the cellular world of bread that cost us so much time.
It's ironic, you know, how each of these films was a product of its time, of the Zeitgeist you might say. The edgy black and white world of the Beats transforms into the George Grosz acid colors of The Beatles, and the music, again, reflects and refracts the period as well. George Harrison had a song that he hadn't used in Wonderwall, which came out about the same time, and I really wanted to use that tune—tack piano and sitar with this beautiful Armenian wind instrument carrying the melody—but we just couldn't get to a deal with Apple Corps, or whatever they called themselves then. George was all ready to GIVE us the tune, he was THAT much behind the project (in spite of Donovan), but, well, let's just say Linda and Yoko didn't REALLY break up the band, you know?
Stylistically, I was trying to communicate that rush you get when POP!, you've got your perfect audio cue and you amble over in your bunny slippers, floating on that waft of good perfect smell, and the butter's perfect, and the satisfying SCRAPE the knife makes as it more-or-less kisses the bread is perfect and…well….
See, there I go again, drifting away the way I do. This is a dangerous trait for a filmmaker. Just ask Orson Welles, Francis Coppola, or, more recently, Mel Gibson. The REAL irony of the project, of course, was that the film wasn't ABOUT the organic perfection of Madame Toast and her entourage. The film was about that Beautiful Machine, without which we've just have crusty bread, and cold, too. The Toaster was analogous to the Apollo Spacecraft for a lot of us back then. A trip to the moon. A Perfect Breakfast. What's it gonna be, you know?
Obviously, if you know anything about me at all, you know the choice I made was an easy one. It was during a retrospective screening for "Toasted" that I met Steena, and it was Steena, dear clear-eyed, talented, leggy, firm-breasted, broad-beamed, amorously inventive, YOUNG Steena Bergwell who made all the difference in my life.
Our love was profane, obviously. She was young enough to be my granddaughter, after all. And all I can say in my defense (as if True Love NEEDS defending) is that she possessed an Old Soul. Fortunately, she also possessed a passport, and it was in Paris…those golden years…where we did some of our finest work together.
I've never met a poet of her depth and understanding before or since, I must admit to you here. She seems to contain within her, somehow, the spirits of the greats—of Rimbaud and Yeats and Lorca and…yes…even Allen, my great good friend Ginsberg, lender of butter for toast, lo these many years now.
It is my love for Steena, I believe (not to mention her generous trust fund), that has kept me focused on My Neverending Film for the past three decades.
I have, to date, shot over 97 thousand hours of 35 millimeter film documenting high school poetry contests in every corner of the world. From Topeka to Tibet, Manhattan to Mongolia, from Kennebunkport to Kabul, wherever young artists congregate in celebration of their muse, I and MY muse, my Steena, have been fortunate enough to be there as well, with cameras by Panavision, film by Kodak, and Craft Services courtesy of Wolfgang Puck.
My most recent distillation of those hours, the film I have spent the last three years editing (courtesy of Steven Jobs and Final Cut Pro), the film, indeed, which you have so generously obtained from your local Blockbuster Video Store, is, I believe, the definitive assessment of a world my bride and I, in truth, have only begun to explore.
We call it, simply, Toast.