We were raised in a very traditional Greek home, with a large Greek extended family and many Greek friends. Our neighborhood and primary school were full of Greeks, and we happily lived and learned alongside a smorgasbord of other nationalities. As we grew up and ventured off to high school, college, and then university, as we got jobs and got involved in extra-curricular activities (that went beyond Greek folk dancing), our exposure to the people of the world grew and grew. How enriching! How wonderful!
It’s no real surprise then that we both grew up to marry Xeni. For those of you who are not Greek, and who do not understand what “Xeni” are…well, that’s you. Xeni, (the plural form of xenos (masculine) or xeni (feminine)) is essentially anyone who is not Greek. This is not meant to be an insult or a derogatory categorization; it’s just a fact. So, our Anglo-Canadian husbands are Xeni. So is our West Indian neighbour, our Japanese co-worker, and the Cameroonian cashier at our local grocery store. All Xeni. The Italian barber at the local salon is also a Xeno…but a little less so, because Italians and Greeks are the same-same…sort of.
One might think that our Greek-ness would get diluted by our exposure and close affiliation with people of other backgrounds. Ridiculous! Our roots are so strong, our connection to our family of origin and culture so important, that there is no such risk. In fact, we continue to feel a special kinship with people who have similar histories, who understand our upbringing, who we can relate to in meaningful ways, because we speak the same language, both figuratively and actually.
And speaking of language. Over the years our husbands have picked up quite a bit of Greek vocabulary. They can understand most conversations, engage in simple Greek discourse, and they have an uncanny ability to get their message across in Greek, occasionally with the help of some creative sign language. What they continue to be confused about however, is English.
You see, our husbands (and all other Xeni that we know), have a real problem wrapping their heads around the nomenclature of a certain kitchen staple. This has become such a contentious topic in our families that we felt we had to write about it, to once and for all settle the great “Bread versus Toast” debate (it’s not really a debate…we are right, they are wrong…but stubborn).
Growing up, our parents always (correctly), referred to the stuff that you put into the toaster, to get it golden brown and crunchy, as toast. “Pass the toast”, they would say. “Do you want some toast for breakfast?” they would ask. “How about a sandwich with a single slice of mortadella and some processed cheese between two pieces of toast for lunch?” they would offer. And the ultimate question: “Do you want your toast toasted, or not?” And therein lies the truth. You see, toast, is toast, whether it ever makes it to the toaster, or not.
Bread on other hand, is not toast. Bread usually has a crunchy crust and a soft airy crumb. Not always, but often. Bread can be round, doughnut shaped (the famous Greek kouloura comes to mind) or a loaf. It can be rye, pumpernickel or twelve grain. It can be sliced, or whole. It is best served alongside a meal like green bean stew or stewed green peas, the perfect tool to sop up sauces. Although you can technically get it into the toaster, bread does not belong there. Confused? Don’t be. You can also slip a music CD into the toaster slot; that doesn’t make the latest Taylor Swift release, toast.
Our husbands don’t get it. They subscribe to the school of thought which says that the soft crusted, almost sponge-y stuff packaged in plastic bags, that you have to be careful does not get flattened by a bag of potatoes as you’re carrying it home from the grocery store, and which keeps fresh for weeks, is “sliced bread”. They argue that sliced bread goes into the toaster, and what comes out, is toast. They are convinced that they are correct, and furthermore, that we secretly agree with them! They truly believe that it is our egos, and alliance to our parents’ teachings, which do not allow us to admit that they are in the right. Silly guys! We actually have no problem owning up to our mistakes. We are mature, self-confident women. Case in point: We have, on occasion, been heard asking for someone to “close the light”. We know that this is grammatically incorrect. In fact, we cringe when the words spill out of our mouths. One does not close a light, one turns off a light. We have also been known to ask if someone could be so kind as to put the dog some food. Good gracious! We are educated people! We know that we do not put the dog some food! We feed the dog! Ugh! We blame these conversational faux-pas on our parents (of course) and our upbringing. More importantly, we know we are not perfect, and are fully capable of admitting to our mistakes, when we make them. Toast is not a mistake.
But it’s not just our husbands. One day, one of us was at work, sitting in a conference room, waiting for a meeting to begin. Around the table were a few Greek individuals, but many more Xeni. While we were waiting for the meeting to start, the conversation turned to toast (don’t they always?). There was a heated exchange between the Greeks, who explained that toast was the soft, sliced stuff meant to be put in a toaster, and the Xeni, who argued that what went into the toaster was called sliced bread, toast was what came out. It was decided (by yours truly) that the next individual to enter the room would have the final say, knowing full well that the only other person still to arrive was kin; a fellow Greek. A few moments later, the late-comer entered, and before she could sit down she was asked to explain the difference between toast and bread. She looked uncomfortable, she hesitated, she looked around, and then she said: “Toast is what you get after you place sliced bread in the toaster”. Traitor!!! After the meeting, this turncoat was asked…what the heck?! She admitted that she lied; that she only said what she knew would be met with the least resistance by the majority of people in the room. She was tired of having this very argument at home, with her very own Xeno husband. Seriously!?
So tell us, where do you sit on the toast versus bread issue? Let’s conduct a survey! Comment toast if you agree with us, or sliced bread if you agree with our husbands, and are wrong. 🙂