A quiet return; or, On toast

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

(T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”)


Sunday morning was a beautiful morning. It started out with a short conversation with my family, as I made my way over to the new Rival Bros Coffee shop in Fitler Square. It was, by all accounts, a glorious summer day. After this long winter, I’ve never been more conscientious of the way we turn towards sunshine like the heliotropes that (therefore) we are, nodding as we welcome the lengthening days and the new evening walks. From this book I know the word for “the warmth of the sun in winter” (apricity) but have yet to find the word for the same phenomenon in summer — that is, a true summery warmth rather than blistering heat, which we in Philadelphia have good reason to loathe. In any case.

Coffee — zoom! And off we go! This coffee shop makes their drinks with two shots of espresso, which after a long break from coffee-caffeine, meant all the edges of the world got sharper with each sip. Rather than the hundred indecisions, visions, and revisions that Prufrock experiences, I felt, temporarily (and for once), full of writerly vim and decisive vigor, good news for the paper I was writing but less so for my increasingly racing heart. What stopped me from a complete surrender to coffee’s maniacal effects was this:


Daily bread with cultured butter, flaky sea salt, and homemade preserves.

Recent food trends aside (though I admit I am happy to see the return of gluten!), is there any happiness in life greater than a good piece of buttered toast? Novelist Henry Green has a very, um, memorable line regarding this subject, which is probably not suitable to type here (naughty!), the gist of it being that he wholeheartedly agrees. Toast is one of those foods that, when described in literature, never fails to make me hungry with its comforting immediacy. And this particular toast — ah! — it surely was a winner. It was practically perfect in every way: two thick slices of bread studded with interesting nubbly grains and seeds, generously buttered so that it dripped, rich and golden, through to the other side, served with a rhubarb hibiscus mint jam. It was comforting and wholesome enough to take the queasy edge off the coffee, and yet decadent and interesting with its contrast of crunch and chew and the mint, in particular, really brightening up the flavor.

This, of course, is toast’s great charm: its ability to live comfortably with transcendence, anchoring it so that it doesn’t fly away. In any case, it was a fine way to ease into a state of full wakefulness on a Sunday morning.




2 thoughts on “A quiet return; or, On toast

    • Thanks! And yes, the jam was totally compelling. I wonder how to make it? I’ve been thinking of buying a bag of hibiscus flowers for making iced tea, so maybe I’ll experiment (while there’s still rhubarb to be had!)

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