A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: A Toast To Toast

Originally published: 10 June 2004

There's a conundrum that runs as follows:

If you drop a slice of buttered toast it will always fall on the floor butter-side down (Murphy's law, of course), and if you drop a cat from a height it will always land on its feet.

So what happens when you tie a piece toast - butter side up - to a cat's back? Does the cat fall on its feet, thereby quashing the myth of buttered toast, or will the toast win the day, with cats losing credibility forever?

The answer is pretty simple. Since there's no way a cat could ever fall on its back, and there's no way fortune would ever be kind enough to allow your toast to fall butter-side up, all that will happen - when you drop the cat from a height - is that the cat and its toast will hang suspended in limbo, with absolutely equal forces preventing it from falling to the ground.

You would be able to sway the balance by either smearing jam on the toast to cover the butter (whereupon the cat would drop to the ground on all fours), or you could take a hacksaw to the cat's legs, whereupon he would promptly flip over and fall on his back, squashing the toast beneath him and spurting tall jets of warm blood four feet into the air.

I intend to present my thesis to a number of top peer review publications, so hold thumbs for me - this could be the big one.

Cats, toast, butter and severed, ragged stumps aside - I reckon toast is totally underrated. It gets a bad rap for being the only thing available to eat at the end of a month and is perceived as being a last resort when the chips are down.

But I don't think people work laterally enough with toast. I've created some of the most memorable toast dishes ever with nothing more than a week-old loaf, a used candle and half a can of gasoline, so you're talking to someone who knows his toast.

My most tragic toast moment came when I was a student, living in a hovel of a flat. I was alone as my two flatmates had relocated to Johannesburg and I wasn't earning a dime.

One day I'd gone three days without food and all I had was tap water. Literally. I didn't even have tea bags for a cuppa, so I drank water and dreamed of finding that ever-elusive briefcase stuffed with forgotten millions.

By the third day I was desperate. All I could do was unhook the rubbish packet from the door handle, open it up and rummage around for leftovers.

I found a piece of coal-blackened toast from earlier, happier times (I can't stand my toast being burned - only lightly browned - so I throw it away when it's black), and took a knife to it, scraping as much of the burn off as possible.

Then I popped down to the Spur at the Gardens Centre in Gardens, Cape Town and grabbed some unused tomato sauce sachets from a bowl near the entrance.

Once back home I heated the toast once more, and when it was warmed through I opened the tomato sauce sachets and smeared that toast an inch thick with All Gold.

It was one of the greatest meals in living memory. What made it special was the hunger that was satisfied.

The next day I got a call from the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB) to come and do a show for schools, and once more I was back in business. That piece of toast saved my ass, and the job - unpleasant as it was - was the sign that the bottom had been reached and the upward climb had begun.

I've never been as low since that lonely but uplifting meal.

What I love most about toast is that it can change according to your mood. If you're needing something sweet you can have toast with lashings of Rama, a wave of Black Cat crunchy peanut butter and a swirl of Illovo syrup, washed down with a mug of hot, sweet tea.


But if it's salt you crave you can either go down Marmite road, or for the less sturdy you can opt for a taste sensation by laying on thick slabs of fresh, cold cheddar or gouda cheese, sprinkle on some Judy's mild pickled onions, add a slash of preferred mustard or chutney and a cut of salami for the flesh-eaters, and you're sorted.

You can have toast with all manner of delicious spreads and combinations, or you can even have it plain - hot, and swimming in butter. Cut some tomato rings and place them on it, cover the tomato with grated cheese, wring a sneeze of pepper over it with your grinder and put it under the grill for a minute.

Chug it down with a sweet, fresh orange juice, preferably without bits in it.

And if you've got plenty of other food come month end, and have absolutely no use for toast whatsoever, then do yourself a favour - strap a slice to your cat and watch the bastard levitate.

It's pure science.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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