I only knew this bit of data from Sting’s “Englishman in New York” song:
“I don’t drink coffee I take tea my dear,
I like my toast done on one side”
I thought: “Wow, do the English really only toast their bread on one side?”
Fast forward to present day: I buy this fancy-shmancy toaster at Williams-Sonoma. Dualit brand, made in the U.K. Two slots, and a rocking switch that says “I” and “II” on it. I figured it was a way to save energy by only firing up one slot if you only had one piece of toast to do.
It toasted my bread only on one side! I’ll be damned!
My question: What gives with this? Is this really the common way toast is done in the U.K.? Do Brits come over here and go “Ewww! My toast is done on both sides”?
My two cents: Toasted on one side is yucky. It’s like: half-cooked, half-raw. Very unnerving.
Earlier models of electric toasters didn’t have slots - they had doors you flipped down to put the bread on a slanted rack, and would only toast one side at a time. Before people had specific appliances for making toast, bread was toasted over a fire or cooking surface one side at a time. Perhaps some people developed a taste for not flipping it over and toasting the other side. Why it should become a cultural marker, I have no idea.
Actually, come to think of it, I might like an English muffin (note - English) toasted on only one side, like your fancy toaster can manage, not that toasting the bottom in a normal toaster seems to hurt anything.
My mom, who is now 71 years old, has a strong preference for toast done on only one side. She says she got this from her mother, who I believe was the daughter of English immigrants to the US (last name Thomas). As I was growing up, we never had a toaster, but instead did our toast in the oven on a cookie sheet, with the oven set to “broil.” She has always said that she likes toast in the English style.
There’s a difference in texture between one- and two-sided toast. With one-sided, the soft untoasted side is against the tongue, which gives the toast a soft texture.
Maybe they originally did it that way (English CUISINE… it seems perfectly normal to me that a Brit could destroy anything meant to end up in your mouth… even toast)
but now they just import their toasters and: tada! Toasted on both sides… hehe
Hi Girl Next Door! Famed though we may be for our weird culinary habits, I am hapy to report that with very rare exceptions (such as Curt C’s Mom, apparently) we Brits toast both sides of the bread.
I am open to correction, but I don’t believe our Greatest Living Rock God, Mr. Sumner, is actually singing about having toast done “on one side”. Websites such as http://www.stingchronicity.co.uk/lyemanny.html
suggest the lyrics are
“I don’t drink coffee I take tea my dear
I like my toast done on the side”
I’ll 'fess up that I’m not positive what this means, and maybe one of my fellow Brit Dopers will come to my rescue. As I’m sure you know, in the song Sting is singing about his friend Quentin Crisp, who affected a rather genteel and upper-class mode of speaking. In this context, the above lines could simply mean “I like a cup of tea served with some toast next to it”, like on a breakfast tray.
As for your puzzling Dualit toaster, there are some things which people prefer to toast only on one side, such as what we call “crumpets” (see below for details)). We normally toast such items under a grill, precisely because most toasters will always toast both sides of anything you put in. But if a toaster has a one-side-only setting then that’s what we might use it for.
So now you’re wondering what I mean by a “crumpet”. This is tough - a bit like trying to explain cricket! Irritatingly, none of the cook books I have handy provide a definition, but it’s a thick-ish part-baked flour cake, rather firm in texture. The base is sealed, but the upper surface has a patterned, dimpled surface like a waffle but with deeper indents. Only the upper surface needs to be warmed or toasted - after which you spread on butter and anything else you like, and enjoy!
Thanks for the straight dope on this, ianzin. It was quite helpful. The part you assumed I did know (the song being about Quentin Crisp) I actually did not and the part you assumed I didn’t know (what crumpets are) I did. And I agree, they’re difficult to explain. Rather like a cross between our “English” muffins and a pancake. While I love all sorts of British tea cakes and pastries, I’m not too crazy about crumpets.
Dualit toasters were originally made for the catering industry and come in several sizes - I have seen up to 10 slots. In fact your original theory about the switch was nearly correct. When you are toasting just one slice (or only 6 in a 10 slotter) they advise that you switch off the elements in un-used slots. However, due to the utilitarian origins of the design which is essentially unchanged after several decades, the element between slots will always heat on both sides. I suspect that when you tried the switch you had the bread in the wrong slot so it got half toasted.
One-sided toast is not something I have ever known to be done intentionally.
BTW Dualit toasters make great toast and last forever due primarily to their lack of features.
I can’t believe what I’m reading. Has none of you people ever heard of a toasting fork? You take a slice of bread, impale it on the fork, and hold it up to the hot fire (no flames, just glow). It toasts in about 3 seconds. Soft on one side, crispy and buttered on the other, lightly flavoured with turf smoke, mmmm, the taste of my childhood.
Hi hibernicus. I agree that when one listens to the song, it could equally be “one side”, although I always hear “the side” ! Maybe Sting needs some elocution lessons…
But before I posted my reply I searched a few sites to check the lyrics, from sources both (seemingly) official-ish and unofficial, and the consensus seemed to be in favour of “the side”. I guess only Sting really knows what he sang and what it means, so let’s hope he’s a regular visitor to this here forum.
BTW, if you don’t already know about this, it’s fun… there are various websites devoted to ‘mondegreens’, which are mis-heard song lyrics. No need for a specific link, just search and trawl and you’ll find them. Some are hilarious. My favourite, and one of the oldest that usually gets included, is Hendrix apparently singing “'Scuse me while I kiss this guy”. The actual lyrics are “kiss the sky”.
I agree 100% about the joys of the toasting fork. Here in England I have mainly seen these used for things like the afore-mentioned crumpets, and marshmallows. Yep, I said marshmallows. Strike another blow for the “The English should never be allowed near food” campaign. Anyways, the only time I remember using a toasting for yer actual toast was during the power cuts of the 1970s (showing my age here). And we always toasted both sides. I’m sure they have much better sense in Dublin!