It is clear to me that the single greatest invention of our civilization has been the wooden toast tongs.
Since the time of Medieval toasters, this device has safely extracted piping hot slabs of bread. Perhaps even earlier, if certain Egyptian hieroglyphics are to be interpreted correctly.
Suspected fact: Leonardo da Vinci may have invented the wooden toast tongs before there were electric toasters, once again anticipating the needs and aspirations of future generations.
Toast tongs made it possible for countless writers and poets through time to sit at their humble desks and create, undistracted by the burning sensation on their fingertips that a tong-less household brings.
Inventors, politicians, artists and even a few religious zealots approached mornings with a more-positive outlook on life because of the innate ability of tongs to extract the perfect piece of toast, unbroken, from the humble toaster.
On this, International Wooden Toast Tongs Day, we salute you, humble device.
Almost certainly, there would have been no wheel without you as its precursor. So many concertos would have gone uncomposed, so many novels unwritten, so many great poems unscribed, so many other great devices uninvented — because, who wants to do anything when your fingertips are coated in burn salve?
Thank you, wooden toast tongs. Tongs for the memories.
And, all hail to the first man or woman — most likely a woman — who bent that slim strip of bamboo in half and used it to extract that near-perfect piece of toast. So many lives have been saved when men or women — most likely men — reached not for a metal fork but, rather, for a wooden set of tongs to extract that near-perfect piece of toast.
Little has been done, little can be done, to improve on the first basic wooden toast-tong design. Oh, you can debate the use of bamboo versus a pliable wood. You can discuss the merits of various strategies of gripability at the tip. You can go round and round about color and aesthetics.
In the end, a toast tong is a toast tong is a toast tong.
It does only one thing and it does it well.
It extracts the perfect piece of toast while maintaining the integrity of its shape.
The only creatvity involved is in the individual’s decision as to when to extract the toast from the toaster. Many people rely on the series of little numbers on the dial to determine the exact moment when the toast should be extracted.
I say “pish posh.” And “pish posh” again.
A true artist, a connoisseur if I may dare use the term, will peer fearlessly into the red-hot glowing maw of the toaster and with the use of every sense available make the independent choice as to when to extract the toast — with the tongs, of course.
Who can say how many men have gone on to do greater things, better good works, lead more meaningful lives — simply because one morning when their toast did not achieve full ejection they did NOT reach for a metal fork and try to extract the toast from a fully electrified toaster.
No, they unthinkingly — and with perhaps little appreciation of the non-conductibility of wood — reached for the tongs, squeezed gently against the brittle sides of the lightly charred bread, and lifted it to safety on an awaiting plate.
This simple man went on to spread butter and perhaps a dollop of jam across that crisp surface before consuming the toast, oblivious of the near-disaster that was so artfully averted by the use of the tongs.
Said man, now well-sated by a decent breakfast, conceivably retired to his writing room and wrote a groundbreaking, emotionally satisfying, novel of earth-shaking relevance (which has yet to be published because, you know — pffffht — book publishers and agents).
Just picture Michelangelo with his fingertips covered in salve and bound in a delicate linen, trying to put the finishing touches on the fresco Creazione di Adamo. Why, he might just have easily, in his foul and pained temperament, decided to have God and Adam give each other the finger. Imagine, all because he was trying to salvage his breakfast toast without the benefit of tongs.
Because of this image, thousands of young children would have been denied access to the X-rated section of the Sistine Chapel, and thus uninspired would have decided to become stock brokers, bankers or talent agents instead of the next generation of artists.
Such things happen.
I can imagine Leo Tolstoy sitting in an overstuffed chair all day, pouting and tending to his glowing red fingertips rather than writing “Anna Karenina.” At most, in this condition, he would have attempted a short story about “Lily” the ungrateful daughter of a shopkeeper who made bad choices and died very early in her less-than-promising life because of them.
Who knows? With seared fingertips and badly charred toast, Gabriel Garcia Marquez might have settled for “Thirty-seven years of Solitude.”
Walt Whitman might have decided to tackle something less-challenging than Leaves of Grass while his badly burned fingertips healed. Perhaps he would have taken up the pursuit of bar-room ditties, like “I once knew a woman from Al Faquas, who was acclaimed for her voluptuous tatas ….”
I have just this moment discovered that wooden toast tongs can also be used for extracting piping-hot day-old pizza slices from the air-fryer.
This is a revelation, the consequences of which I need to explore while I eat my pizza.
This may take a while. Don’t wait up for me.
But do do yourself a favor and get a set of wooden toast tongs.
They may be all that stands between you and the creation of the next great masterpiece or the Great American novel.