On cinnamon toast

I was reminded of this midwestern delicacy the other day when Garrison Keillor mentioned it in one of his status updates. Not that Garrison and I are great friends or anything, but being brought up in Minnesota during roughly the same period–he has a year or two on me–we share certain experiences in common, and cinnamon toast is one of those experiences. The recipe is simple: one hungry child, two slices of bread, a little sugar, a little cinnamon, a pat of butter, and a toaster. You swirl all of that around and you end up with a happy child with butter and cinnamon breath who now will stop whining. Perhaps what I like most about cinnamon toast is that it is a simple pleasure that never stops pleasing. You can serve cinnamon toast whenever you want to, but I find that as a snack, just after school was always the best. Although, as an adult, I find that just after midnight with a glass of fresh milk is the best time. You don’t have to be a genius to make it, and it’s hard to mess up unless you get the cinnamon and some other brown spice confused in which case it’s easy to mess up. Not too much butter, not too much sugar, and not too much cinnamon seem to be the best way to describe perfect cinnamon toast. Plain toast with butter is fine, but a little cinnamon and a little sugar go a long way in jazzing up a fairly bland experience. Crying children can be made quiet by cinnamon toast. An unhappy baby will find endless hours of fun playing with cinnamon toast bits. I’m not really sure why the butter-sugar-cinnamon combination is so appealing. I get the sugar and butter–energy–but the spicy element, the cinnamon, that’s the mystery. But maybe it’s a little mystery we all crave in Minnesota, on the tundra, in the middle of January–a warm slice of cinnamon toast that has been prepared for us by someone who love us. Just surviving the Minnesota winter is enough for most of us–we understand the relative value of even the small things in life. So when making cinnamon toast, don’t worry if the little can of cinnamon is a few years old, it’ll still work. What I like is when you sprinkle the cinnamon on the butter and it turns from light brown to dark brown–the cinnamon is active. You don’t have to grind your own special for the cinnamon toast to be very good. What you want is a little flavor, not to be overwhelmed by it. Cinnamon toast, in lieu of fancier desserts, is one of life’s great pleasures that needs to excuses or explanations. Recently I had cinnamon toast and a nice cup of Spanish cafĂ© con leche, and the combination was very nice–two simple pleasures mixing together in the midst of a chaotic, fractured, non-linear sort of day. Cinnamon toast is as much about nostalgia for a simpler life as it is about smell, taste, and texture as it explodes in your mouth. Yet, it is also easy to forget if you are an adult. When was the last time you sprinkled a little cinnamon and sugar on your toast? Did you ever even learn how to spell the word, “cinnamon”? Two n’s, one m? So tonight, when it’s about have past late, and my stomach is on the prowl for something good, I’m going to go back in time and make myself a couple of pieces of cinnamon toast.