Life Is Complicated, Toast With Jam Is Not

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. 

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  • Oh I adore toast and jam! It reminds me of my mom and the time she would do the jams by herself! Still today, she preferes to drink a latte and a toast with jam rather than a full normal meal! Funny how a simple thing like toast and jam can give as a glimpse into some deep memories!

  • So bummed I don’t have toast and jam for lunch now…

  • Cristina

    I luuuurv toast and jam, but I have to advocate for the butter, then the jam on top of it lol.
    There is really nothing like homemade jam on homemade bread. My aunt recently baked like 5 loaves over Christmas and I ate as much as I could with no shame. Mmmmmm my mouth is watering!

    • The butter is definitely necessary.

  • tuberoseandvetiver

    Loveless cafe in Nashville makes beautiful jams, well preserves actually. I’m going to try this brand though. Such delicacy.

  • claire

    Love this article but to be clear jam on toast is definitely vegan!

    • Abby

      came here to say the same thing lol

    • I know! That was the joke 🙂

  • Alessia

    “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.” sorry i love this article but this sounds so pretentious???

    • Robin

      I can see where you come from but I think it’s part of the nostalgic deal to it? That you want the same quality of bread and jam as you always used to have because if it’s not precisely the same it’s all ruined? That’s how it works for me anyway

    • Didn’t mean to sound pretentious! You know when you love something so much – say, velvet hair bows – that you get really obsessed with it and want to know everything about and try everything with it? So that you kind of become a velvet hair bow expert, knowing exactly where to get the best velvet hair bows and how to tie them like a pro? I’m a bit like that with toast and jam! Plus I wasn’t advocating to get “the GOOD lobster from your local Dean & Deluca” – was I? 🙂

      • Zauberwald

        Nothing about what you wrote sounded pretentious to me, but then again, I love a bit of a pretentious attitude, so perhaps I am too blind to see.

      • Kiks

        It didn’t sound pretentious at all. I’m so picky about jam. My husband wasn’t until he tried the fruit-heavy jams I bought and now he gets it too.

  • Cordelia

    Toast and marmalade (with slices of cheese) and coffee ❤️

  • Emily M

    This is beautiful. I forget how complicated we can make things, even the simplest human instinct of eating. What a lovely testament to slowing down and appreciating simplicity in certain moments.

  • You are speaking to my soul right now. I love good crunchy toasty bread with some strawberry jam. Toast should be its own food group tbh.

  • coffeebee

    I eat toast and jam every morning with coffee. The bread comes from a plastic-wrapped bag, and the jam most certainly has added sugar. It’s perfect.

  • b

    I live in Spain and the most typical breakfast here is “pan tostado con tomate,” or tomato toast. It’s just toast with ground tomato, salt, and olive oil drizzled on top. It sounds humble, but it’s my FAVORITE thing. I like how each ingredient is absolutely necessary–take just one away and it’s not great. But all four ingredients together: heaven.

    • That sounds amazing!!

    • Samantha s

      Yes! After vacationing in the Canary islands my husband and I have fallen in love with Pan con tomate!!! We have always toasted and I did not realize we were actually eating “pan toastado con tomate”…now the month of August is spent eating pan con tomate 3x a day….literally the most delicious thing ever (BTW, I learned a trick on the internet to grate the tomato- this creates the perfect consistency – then you’re left with just the skin of the tomato which makes the best BLT’s, because tomato innards just make sandwiches soggy) – anyway there’s my ode to tomato bread : )

      • Robin

        here in catalunya they are super picky on the type of tomato. I keep forgetting the name but they are small and surprisingly round and should be cut horizontally (VERY IMPORTANT) and then you just rub the insides on the bread.

    • I once had pan tostado con tomate on Mallorca and it’s was one of the best lunches I ever had. I remember the bread was unsalted and the tomatoes sweet as strawberries.

  • meg

    its 8pm and i suddenly need toast and jam

  • Robin

    claire I remember your coffee article and honestly you seem so nice based on your love of coffee and toast and jam.

    have to admit i’m more into toast and marmite though!!!

  • Jay

    thank you so much for that Claire – btw, does your blog have a newsletter?! Cause I discovered it just today and loved it… – but am so bad catching up… ähem… btw you are berlin based? Same here… so many questions… e.g. what is your take on stilinberlin (oeverrated or well curated?) why does everyone fancy Berghain (or is it just tourists?) and is Neukölln the new Friedrichshain (yes, Id say… and glad for that so my home is getting a bit more quiet…)….

    But no.

    Totally get you on the toast and jam.

    Not butter.

    No BS.

    At all.

    For me it is Beerenmüsli, no sugar added, by dm market though. With some banana and half fat organic Joghurt.

    (If I go fancy then I have the flavoured Joghurt and prefer andechser Natur full fat with rasperry and might leave out the banana then and rather put some berries… but this is truly as crazy as it can get…)

    Have that everyday.

    Even Christmas. (And I love when my mom buys it for me… and my parents are cool with me ignoring everything else on the breakfast table… yes, like even on Christmas!!!!)

    Or birthday.

    And I like it.


    And sometimes get anxious when I’m running out. Or on Vacation. Or traveling…

    And no it is not vegan, by the way 🙂

  • Jessica

    Raspberry jam is definitely the best and I feel it doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves.
    (Gotta have the seeds in. None of that seedless nonsense)

    • Kiks

      Raspberry is the clear winner. Just the right amount of tartness.

  • a_shoni

    Toasts with jam are fantastic! I usually get to eat it only when I travel and it’s always delightful. Never underestimate simple pleasures.

    Personally I never understood the idea that you should feel grateful and appreciating all the time. If you don’t feel, then right now, in this exact moment for this exact you it doesn’t deserve this feeling. And it’s totally fine. It’s a good thing to pay attention, to notice, to memorize, but whenever a thought that you “should feel” comes to your mind, you don’t feel for real. It distracts you from actual reality. Taxes are something you “should”, not feelings.

    PS lifehack: even if you don’t feel the whole beauty of the moment, chances are that later, when all the details fade, it’ll become the loveliest memory and you will feel it all every time you remember it.

    • Lauren Thompson

      I love what you’re saying about “should” feelings. A friend of mine used to say “stop should-ing on yourself” whenever we’d start talking this way 🙂

  • My grandma eats a toast with butter and cherry (occasionally apricot) jam every single morning. And it’s been going on for decades.

    • Zauberwald

      MINE TOO, except she alternates between strawberry and apricot. I visited her over Christmas and decided to stray from my usual breakfast of two Butterhörnchen and some salami, and realized what I had been missing all these years!

  • mary

    love the levity of his article….and yes- it makes you crave the uncomplicated!

  • Kay Nguyen

    Toast with jam isn’t complicated but trying to pick the right jam for the right toast is… Sure you can just use whatever but some combinations are better than the other… I still think it’s slightly complicated haha <3

  • notinlondon

    Yes girl. Sourdough-butter-blackberry jam club.

    • Julia

      This is exactly my combo too!

  • Ashley

    This was beautiful

  • I have a feeling that we’re so overstimulated in our oversaturated society of constant entertainment and distractions, that we’ve grown numb to experiences and blind to the simple things in life. This piece was such a breath of fresh air, and reading it ended with a relieved sigh. I can’t exactly pinpoint why I suddenly feel so zen, but thank you for reminding me of how I don’t need anything complex and glamorous to be satisfied. I guess that sometimes sharing jam (with butter) on toast with a loved one can be more than enough to feel content.

  • rien de rien

    I lived in Russia for a few years and I desperately miss the simple breakfasts of fresh black bread topped with butter and raw honey served with tea. In the spring there was always a brief window when you could buy the most incredible fresh raspberries and tiny wild strawberries from babushki on the street to go with it.
    Crispy toast with Kerrygold salted butter and St. Dalfour Black Cherry is wonderful, but it’s still not quite the same. I’ve never found black bread in the US on par with anything in the former USSR.

    • Kiks

      That sounds amazing. I need to go buy some honey.

  • So I’ve just started dating this guy, and when I came out of the shower this morning this was waiting for me in the kitchen <33

    • Based on my experience with men serving toast and jam I’d say he must be the one for you!

  • BK

    My top 5 rankings of jam to have on toast:
    – Bonne Maman Peach Conserve
    – Pineapple & Lime Jam (homemade)
    – Anathoth Farm Boysenberry Jam
    – Fig & Ginger Jam (also homemade)
    – Vegemite (sorry! I’m Australian. Also aware it is not Jam so don’t get all ‘actually’ at me)

    All with salted butter, naturally

  • Joell Conley

    I agree, the stress begins with the first thought of the great moments inevitable end….and i also realized, on every vacation or short getaway, I still enjoy simplicity of toast and jam…mine being crusty italian bread with fresh butter and orange marmalade and a cup of percolated coffee..the memory of carefree happiness and comfort of childhood comes flying back. I enjoyed it during the best years of my life growing
    up playing with my cousins ..Grandma Bosack’s was the best!