I am one of those lucky fellows who have friends who write well and from time to time I thought it might be fun to share some of their scrbbling with you. This school essay by my nephew Andrew Purdy has the quality of a budding scribe.
“Would you like a piece of toast with that, Andrew?” my mother asked. Without thinking, my instantaneous response was a terse “yes, please,” and soon the wafting scent of toasted bread swirled to my nostrils, evoking warm memories of summer mornings at my grandmother’s lake house in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, where the soft sounds of birds chirping and small waves calmly lapping the shoreline are accompanied by the faintly sweet aroma of cooking toast and butter. The word toast is synonymous with breakfast at the lake, as my grandmother’s prize of a toaster makes toast unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. Over fifty years old, the old, tarnished, scrap-metal-looking toaster was a wedding gift for my grandmother and my late grandfather, and since then, it has not been surpassed in its use or in the quality of its product. The light, flaky crust that forms around the fluffy, pillow-like bread on the inside is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted, and after years of brainstorming potential reasons for its superior taste and texture, I have settled on the toaster being the primary reason. The new, “state-of-the-art” toasters that my family has owned at our home in Massachusetts have never come close to the quality of toast that that old toaster creates, and after years of claiming it was the quality of bread from Quebec, we have finally come to the conclusion that it is the toaster that deserves the praise.
What sets apart my grandmother’s toast from everything else is the spectacular flavor and texture that accompanies it. The toast has a light fluffy center, and the outside is a golden, crispy brown that for some inexplicable reason does not get soggy with butter, but instead absorbs it into a thin layer, all while maintaining a crunchy exterior. At home, even with the same bread and the same butter, the toast quickly becomes saturated and sags with the butter, and as a result, loses its crunchy texture that makes toast so appealing. Upon one’s first bite, the flood of buttery flavor that comes in my grandmother’s toast is an experience of pure, cholesterol filled pleasure. The explosion of flavor found in my grandmother’s toast, probably embellished by the great summertime memories that have been made at the lake, has made toast a genuine part of the vacation experience while visiting my grandmother. As a result, toast has become something I legitimately look forward to on our long car-rides up to Canada, and in every memory I have of my grandparents at their summer home, the wonderful, buttery goodness of their toast is not far behind.
My family on my mother’s side is a ritualistic, food-loving bunch, probably due in great part to their French heritage and the francophone culture that is so prevalent in the area of Canada in which they live. They are creatures of habit, experience intense nostalgia, and as a whole, are very tradition-minded. Eating toast at breakfast is certainly one of these traditions, and the question ‘What do you want for breakfast?’ is seldom posed in the Lavoie household. The assumption, as well as the reality, is that we all will be having toast at our family gatherings, and as the matriarch of the Lavoie clan, my grandmother furnishes these desires, putting out ungodly amounts of sliced bread for us to eat. This morning ritual is certainly not one that feels forced upon us, but is rather an accurate assessment of our eating habits while at the lake, and my grandmother acting accordingly. Indeed, toast is a part of my summer vacation experience that is difficult to surpass, and while I would survive, eating cereal for breakfast while in that environment would simply not be the same. It is amazing that something as simple as a piece of toast can carry such a symbolic relevance in my memory, but then again, my grandmother’s toast is not any ordinary toast, it is uniquely hers, and it is certainly one of a kind.