Toasty History

Ancient Bread

Birth of a Hero

The origin of toast itself is unclear; evidence of flour dates back 30,000 years, and Egyptians are credited with the invention of leavened (or yeast-raised) bread. In fact, some 5000 year old loaves of bread have been found in Egyptian tombs.

As for toast itself, it's believed to have begun in ancient Rome, where, in order to preserve bread longer and salvage stale bread, it was cooked over fire, hardening it. The Latin word "tostum" means "scorching or burning," and this is where toast got its name from.

Bread Bowl

How very...Useful

As time went on, toast became a staple of everyone's diet since it was the best and, really, only way to preserve bread. It also tasted better. Several devices came into being to make toasting it easier, like sticks (not for marshmallows, but for toast) and toast forks, which were basically tongs that made it easier to hold the bread over the fire while it cooked.

That's not all of the utilities that came with toast back in the day. In Medieval times, plates and bowls were made from old toasted bread and were called trenchers. After the meal, trenchers could be eaten (they had probably absorbed the juices from the meal set on them) or given to the poor so they could eat, as well. Nowadays, we have bread bowls, which are really cool and leave less cleanup after a meal.

The Toaster and Sliced Bread

Nothing significant happened in the toast world from then on until the advent of electricity. Shorter after, the first toaster was invented by Alan MacMasters in 1893, but it was very dangerous since the wiring would often melt and it could only toast one side at a time. Innovation quickly followed, and the modern "popup" toaster was released in 1919.

At this point, bread was still made in loaves, so it had to be cut by hand to be put in toasters. Naturally, people wanted it simpler and easier. Otto Frederick Rohwedder went right to work. He managed to make an automatic bread slicer, but it, along with the blueprints, were lost in a fire in 1917.

In spite of being hated by bakers, Rohwedder started over and finished his bread slicer in 1927. In order to keep the bread fresh, the machine wrapped the cut loaf in wax paper right as it was cut. This was literally the best thing ever, the thing that all great things afterward would be compared to.

Today we have easy to make toast and all the time in the world to come up with creative ways to eat it. What will happen next in the fascinating world of toast? Who knows! Space bread, maybe?