By MARY TOBIA

tneditor@tnonline.com

My breakfast is not complete without a piece of bread or an English muffin toasted just right with lots of butter and strawberry jelly.

The first to develop toasted bread were the ancient Egyptians about 6000 years ago. They realized that if they let bread sit out in Egypt's warm climate it would rise, and when baked would retain its risen shape. They also noted that after a few days in the hot dry desert air the bread became hard and uneatable.

In ancient times toasting bread was a means to preserving the bread. It was toasted by holding it over a fire or by laying it on a hot stone. The Romans spread the idea of toast throughout Europe, even into Britain, and the colonists brought the idea of toast to the Americas.

The word "toast" comes from the Latin word "tostum" which means to scorch or burn.

The first actual toaster was a two-wire frame into which you would insert the bread and set it over an open fire. It would be turned over and over 'til the desired darkness was reached.

In 1926 the first pop up toaster was developed by a company called Toastmaster and by the 1940s most toasters were automatic.

Today 88 percent of homes in the United States have a toaster.

Growing up I remember our electric toaster we had on the farm. It was an early 1950s General Mills all-chrome belly attached to a black plastic frame for the bottom.

There was a leafy design etched into the sides. It toasted only two pieces at a time of my mom's delicious homemade bread. The appliance had only one small red dial that would turn right or left for either light or dark settings. It even made a " click" sound half way through the toasting cycle to let you know it was almost done.

There were no fire proof electrical shut offs, no special plugs for the outlets so no one gets electrocuted, no small, medium or large size bagel adjuster. Nor did it have 20 different settings from very lightlytoasted to extra dark and no flashing lights to let you know your toast is being kept warm.

My mom passed away a few years ago and she still used that old General Mills toaster to make the best toast around. I kept that old toaster just because of all the memories it invoked in me.

I cannot tell you how many toasters our family has gone through over the years. Three years ago my husband brought home the most awesome toaster ever. I will not mention the brand name but let's just say it is a popular one. For the toast lover I am, it was perfect.

About six months ago it started to be very unreliable. It worked only when it wanted to and burned the toast even on a lower setting. After checking the manual and going over all adjustments, we just lived with it until last week when it stopped working altogether.

Out of frustration, I headed down to the basement and got the old General Mills toaster out of retirement. That sixty-plus-year-old toaster made the most perfect toasted bread. I just couldn't help but think of that old phrase, "They just don't make things like they used to."

In doing my research for our next one, I came across the toasters of the future. They will respond to voice commands regarding bread darkness.

My favorite is the one that burns the daily weather predictions into the side of your toast each morning. It gets the predictions by means of your Internet connection.

For the Tobia household I think we will look for something very simple and basic.

Maybe a wire frame over a hot stone.