I sometimes find it hard to deal with overly beautiful moments. In October, I stood on a rock on the Lebanese coast, dressed in nothing but a damp beach towel, and looked over the peaceful Mediterranean Sea as the sun sank into the water. It was a moment quite literally too beautiful to handle. I had to keep telling myself, This is special! Enjoy this! Be emotional! I even tried to squeeze out some tears of emotion to give the situation the reaction I thought it deserved. It didn’t work. It was too much pressure.
I have the same problem when I go to fancy restaurants. These visits don’t happen that often in my life, so when they do, I feel obliged to make them unforgettable. I chew every bite like it’s my last one. I try hard to taste the hints of peach and cedarwood in my glass of sauvignon blanc. By the end of the meal, I feel the need to lie down and relax. I know this sounds dramatic, and it’s certainly a privileged problem to have. It may very well be a symptom of the every-good-moment-is-an-Instagram-opportunity times we live in. But for me, outstandingly great moments are too stressful.
Maybe that’s why I love toast and jam so much.
I forgot how good toast and jam was until I slept over at my soon-to-be boyfriend’s place for the first time. I hadn’t planned this. When I woke up in the morning, he offered me black coffee and toast and jam. No homemade blueberry pancakes. No freshly squeezed orange juice. No tropical fruit salad and no poached egg on avocado. Just toast and jam. I hadn’t eaten toast and jam since I was a kid, and it instantly brought back memories from childhood.
My boyfriend and I have been together for almost three years now, and of all the many great meals he’s cooked for me, toast and jam remains a favorite. We usually eat it on Sunday mornings in bed. The choice of bread is crucial: It has to be soft and buttery so the core remains tender even when it’s toasted. I recommend buying a fresh loaf at a local bakery instead of the plastic-wrapped kind you get at the supermarket. The jam has to be made up of at least 70 percent fruit. Most jams with less fruit taste like liquid bubble gum. I love the classics (strawberry, cherry) while my boyfriend prefers less conventional flavors such as pear or mango. Neither of us adds butter. It’s just the jam and the toast, and I’m in heaven.
What is it about this food? It’s basic — just sugar on carbs. There are no fancy toppings. There is no vegan option. You can’t leave something out; you can’t order the bread on the side. Eating in 2018 is complicated; toast and jam is not.
Eating toast and jam is one of the simplest joys in life, like a warm summer wind that breezes through an open car window, or freshly washed bed linen, or showering after a hard workout, or the first cherries of the season. It’s one of those things that’s easy to forget just how good it is, but it always sounds like a good idea. It smells even better.
I wonder if the real thing that stresses me out about great moments is their inevitable end. I’ve always feared the end of holidays, summer breaks, romantic weekends in Paris. But I am positive that there’s no end to the simple happiness of toast and jam.
Photos by Edith Young. Art direction by Emily Zirimis.