If I had to pick out my half dozen favorite possessions, one would be a 60-year-old, permanently blackened device known as the Toas-Tite. My mother bought it around 1950, she gave it to me when I got married and moved out, and I still use it — as recently as today.

The Toas-Tite consists of two cast-aluminum “clam shells” joined with a hinge and opened and closed with two long handles. In the most basic use of this gadget, one puts a slice of bread on one of the shells – with a little butter on the down side to prevent sticking. Lay on some cheese, maybe a slice of tomato, and then put on the second slice of bread  — again with a little butter on the outside. Close the handles and cut away the excess bread. Then grill the contents over whatever heat source is handy, turning the Toas-Tite frequently to avoid burning the bread while the cheese melts. When the Toas-Tite is opened, the result is a sealed round hot sandwich.

Of course there is no limit to the type  of bread or the nature of the filling one can use  in a Toas-Tite. I stick to the traditional melted cheese, sometimes adding ham and bacon and — just this afternoon — olive loaf. But I saw a recipe today that involved bleu cheese, figs, and prosciutto, and another that called for bananas and peanut butter. I also saw a variation in which already–prepared crepes were used instead of bread.

Recently, we introduced another generation to the Toas-Tite — namely, our ten-year-old granddaughter Alexa. She’s hooked.

The patent for the original Toas-Tite was issued in 1949. A later version, which used sheet instead of cast aluminum, was inferior because it was too easy to burn the bread before the filling was melted or thoroughly toasted. Although the Toas-Tite hasn’t been manufactured for many years, it is possible to buy the original model on the Internet.

Except for being blackened by repeated heating, the Toas-Tite I have is just as it was when Mom bought it and probably will last long enough for Alexa to spring it on her own kids. I don’t think it’s simplistic to say that it’s a testament to the manufacturing standards of the past. I like that about it, but what I like most is that it’s a tangible, useable link to my mother, and one that she would have appreciated.

You can find a lot of information about the Toas-Tite, including recipes, at THIS LINK.

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