to be toast – (a) to be finished, to be in serious trouble, (‘If Mum finds out we took the car last night, we will be toast’) (b) to be exhausted, like new parents are.
We started a right old squabble¹ on Facebook by asking our British friends what they meant when they said they were “toast”. Half of them said they meant that they were in real trouble with someone else. And half of them said they meant they were knackered. And then they fought with each other about who was right.
We say both sides are right. To say that you are toast, in the sense that you are in deep trouble, is more common in the States (and allegedly it comes from the original Ghostbusters movie – who knew?) [I thought it came from the old black and white gangster movies. Apparently the Canadians also lay claim – who knows? – Nicer Kate] whereas in the UK we are more likely to associate the idea of “being toast” with tiredness. Which makes it a doubly useful expression.
Toast itself is a big part of the British table. Breakfast, lunch, tea, supper – it’s there, waving at you from beneath spreadings of jam or Marmite, or under eggs or bacon or piles of mushrooms. I once lived in a country where toast wasn’t particularly popular (and in any case it was nearly impossible to find decent bread anyway), and it was very, very difficult.
Another thing – when we cut out toast into strips, so we can dip them into boiled eggs, we call them “soldiers”. Always.
To be honest, there’s not a LOT more we can say about toast. It’s great. Most of us eat it every day, and probably far too much. And I can’t tell you which country it was where I lived my toast-free existence because in this post I’ve mentioned that they didn’t have decent bread. And plenty of my friends from that country read this. And when they see that I am gently criticising their bread…I’ll be toast.
Nicer Kate has given you a recipe (below) for marmalade, which struck us as the most British of toast toppings. From the Greek, via Portugal marmelo, meaning apple, it probably started as a variation of quince jelly (like the Spanish membrillo), we have been eating variations of it since the Medieval period. The now-typical citrus fruit option seems to have been first recorded in the English recipe book of Eliza Cholmondeley, from 1677 where she talks of a “Marmelet of Oranges”, which was essentially an orange version of the paste. The Scots are credited with developing marmalade as a spread, with Scottish recipes in the 18th century using more water to produce the jam-like consistency we know today. The Scots certainly brought the spread to the breakfast table, with Samuel Johnson and James Boswell being offered it at breakfast in Scotland in 1773.
There are variations from Dundee, Oxford (with thick strips of orange peel suspended in the spread), some with whisky or ginger, or lemon and lime versions (Nicer Kate’s favourite as a child).
Marmalade is probably now most famous as the sandwich filling of choice of that very discerning Peruvian bear, Paddington. I trust he would approve of the recipe below.
SEVILLE ORANGE MARMELADE
Makes 9lb (4kg)
- 900g Seville oranges
- 2.5l water
- 1 lemon
- 1.80kg sugar
- Sterilise some old jam jars, by putting them in the dishwasher on a hot wash. Keep the dishwasher closed until you need to use them (at step 9)
- Wash the oranges and cut the oranges half, squeeze out juice and pips. Put pips in a muslin bag and tie.
- Put orange juice in a pan with water and lemon juice. Gently bring to the boil.
- Slice peel thinly and add to the pan with pips.
- Simmer about 1 1/2 hours until peel is soft and liquid reduced by half.
- Take out the bag of pips and squeeze out any liquid into the pan.
- Stir in sugar over low heat until dissolved. Boil rapidly to setting point (about 104C. Use a sugar thermometer to test)
- Cool 15 minutes in pan.
- Stir well, then pour into those sterilised jars.
- Cover, seal, label. Store in a cool dry place. Will keep for at least 6 months until you open the jar, then a few weeks open in the cupboard.
(1) squabble – childish argument
(c) Kayte & Nicer Kate 2017. Authors assert moral rights