has apparently topped a poll of favourite smells in Britain. The suggestion is that it the smell of toast is, for most people, associated with breakfast, comfort food and associated "niceness". I rather like the smell myself.
My paternal grandfather made toast in two ways. In winter he would make it on a toasting fork in front of the old Metters woodstove. If you were fortunate you opened up the front portion when the coals were glowing and the bread would turn brown as you held it there on the end of the fork. If you were not so fortunate the bread would drop in the ash or burn. If that happened my grandfather would dust it off and scrape or cut off the black part.
In summer it was made in an ancient toaster. The bread still had to be watched and turned. It too would sometimes burn and need to be scraped. He would then butter the toast and eat it with marmalade made by my grandmother. He also made my grandmother's toast.
For the last few years of their life at home he insisted she had breakfast in bed each morning.
Each morning he would set the tray with a tray cloth, a tiny vase with a single bud, a dainty matching cup, saucer and plate, the butter dish, the marmalade in another small dish and the tea in a small pot with a woollen cosy. (My grandmother took neither milk nor sugar in her tea.) The toast would then be put in the silver toast rack they had used all their married lives and he would take it all in to her.
If my grandfather chipped a piece of the crockery or knocked the handle off the cup he would go to the drapery store a little distance down the road on which they lived. There he would buy a new cup, saucer and plate. This was for his wife and it had to be perfect. He had, after all, only been married to her more than fifty years by then. He was not in the least romantic in other ways but she was the love of his life and he was determined to show it.
My grandmother loved him that way in return. She would have been happy to go into the kitchen and make her own breakfast but she accepted that he wanted to do it for her. She would smile at the single rosebud or the single daisy and tell him how pretty it was and thank him for the trouble he had taken. It was a ritual and yet not a ritual. Each occasion was important to them.
As they grew older and frailer I spent a good deal of time with them. I would leave my boarding school on Friday afternoon and spend the weekend with them. During that time my grandmother taught me to cook, clean, iron and other things. I would do it all under her direction and leave the meals for a week in the refrigerator so that they only needed to be heated up.
My grandfather however continued to get breakfast. As he grew unsteadier he would put the tray on the tea-trolley and take it in that way. Trips to the draper for new crockery became more frequent but the standard had to be maintained.
I will forever associate those wonderful weekends with the smell of burnt toast.