Tonight I made toast for dinner. Normally I never eat bread - not because it's faddish but because, lately, it doesn't agree with my stomach.
In my second year of living in Japan something that I don't think I'll ever be able to explain happened within my digestive system, making the consumption of certain foods wreak havoc on my stomach. [Read: it felt like someone had lit a fire continually fed gasoline and matches into my stomach.]
It was easily among the worst physical pain I have ever had to endure in my life. And after some research and careful thought, I eliminated gluten from my diet. And I felt better. So since then, I've restricted my intake of gluten not because I think it's is capital 'B' bad for people, but because for me, at that time, not ingesting it made a huge difference in my health.
But there's something undeniably comforting about the smell of toast to me. When I was a child, my signature (and favourite) lunch was a sandwich of two pieces of toasted whole wheat Wonder Bread, spread lightly with mayo and finished with iceberg lettuce and two slices of beefsteak tomato. It was simple, and delicious. It was also so much more to me, in so many circumstances.
Toast is simplicity and perfection. It's a back porch in Dunbar with my dad and sister after a rainfall has left the earth smelling like like wild scallions. Toast is confidence, the thing my mother felt within her culinary repertoire to complete a satisfying breakfast of bacon and eggs. Toast, is love.
When Ben and I lived Japan, our lives were both wonderful and difficult.
For the the first year, I supported both of us solely on my income. That was the difficult part. I had meant to put money towards my student loans. That couldn't happen. But the wonderful part was having the time and circumstance that awarded us to be together, and to travel together; I'll always remember the time we had and the places we went rather than the money that could have been saved.
I remember one of our first breakfasts together in Japan. It was in Asakusa, Tokyo. We each had black coffee, a hard boiled egg, and a thick piece of toast lightly coated in butter. Salarymen smoked cigarettes nearby, inside. Ben and I looked at each other and smirked a "we-forgot-smoking-in-restaurants-was-a-thing-here" smirk. We enjoyed every last bite of our first Japanese breakfast, despite the smokey ambiance.
While Ben was unemployed he did everything he could to make up for his lack of income. He did all of the household chores - dishes, laundry, groceries. My supervisor would refer to him as my 'Kiwi Husband', as in a term given to male New Zealanderswho help in the share of everyday errands. Ben would get up with my at 6:30 a.m. everyday. He would make me breakfast while I got ready for work. Often, that breakfast was one of those thick pieces of toast we'd had our very first day together in Asakusa.
When Ben got a job after the first year, it was still difficult and wonderful. He got home after 10 p.m. most nights. He worked six days a week. But Sunday - that was our day. Ben didn't have time to do all the chores he used to, and that was understandable. But every Sunday - Ben's day off - he would would make us breakfast.
Ben put his heart into these breakfasts. He'd make crepes, pancakes, French Toast - with all the accoutrements you could imagine. He'd make us Hawaiian coffee (2 cups each) out of of our tiny, orange, drip coffee machine (perhaps so called because we got it from a place called 'Orange House' in Yokkaichi). He would cut up fresh fruit. He would buy nutella from the foreign foods store. He would get dark chocolate and melt it into a heart in the centre of a perfect piece of toast using a frying pan, because we never had a microwave. Toast was often the medium for which Ben used to frame his love for me and our experiences together.
Every Sunday was our day, fully. It started with breakfast and it ended with a romantic dinner. We would make a special meal together in the evening, drink cheap wine, watch a movie, and talk for hours. It almost always started with a thick piece of toast, and always ended with a kiss. I loved Sundays, because I loved Ben.
Just before Ben left was when I started to have problems with my stomach. Maybe it was the anticipation of knowing the person I shared all those memories with - all those Sundays, all that morning toast, all those evening kisses - I'll never really know. But it all changed when he left.
It was only four months. I don't know if that makes it any or less hard. But of everything I missed the most after Ben left, it was those Sundays with him. Those perfectly satisfying moments together. Those moments of toast.
Tonight I made toast for dinner. It reminded me of all those moments of simplicity, perfection, and most off all, love.