Uncorked: Make the most of your toast
by Pat Kettles
Special to The Star
Dec 26, 2012 | 1793 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Over the course of Thanksgiving weekend, I had the joy of sharing time with two small children in our family, 3-year-old Anna Cate, aka “The Princess,” and her 5-year-old brother Walker Jackson. We had a roaring good time reading, playing games and telling tall tales that got taller with each child’s telling.

I came away from this experience feeling blessed and happy. The events of these past weeks have made me recognize how truly blessed I am to know they are safe and whole.

Our extended Thanksgiving visit at the beach was characterized by much toasting by these two who clinked breakfast milk glasses, juice packs and sippy cups with my coffee cup followed by a resounding, “Cheers.” In response to one clink request, I responded with, “Over the lips and past the gums, look out stomach, here I come,” immediately garnering the attention of Walker Jackson and prompting many requests to repeat the toast until he had it firmly committed to memory.

The earliest reference to the over the lips toast dates to the 1880s and comes from Cowboy Toasts, Songs and Other Frontier Ballads collected by John and Alan Lomax. Although the 1880 version reads, “Up to my lip and over my gum, look out guts here she comes.”

The origin of toasting dates to ancient history. We know ancient Romans and Greeks toasted their gods and each other and that most all cultures have toasting customs.

Some assert this custom came about because of the propensity of ancient civilizations to dispatch their enemies by poisoning. Other scholars argue even in ancient cultures poisoning was not so institutionalized as to create the need for ritual toasting to assure guests their libations were not poisoned.

It was custom then as now for the person hosting the gathering to offer the first toast and take the first sip from the glass. In ancient times, often this glass or bowl was a communal vessel making it all the more unlikely for poison to be involved.

Toasting reached its zenith in 17th century England where it became custom for everyone in attendance to be toasted. If 40 people attended a party, there were 40 toasts, accompanied by 40 gulps of an alcoholic libation.

In addition to toasting those in attendance, the custom expanded to toast absent friends, departed loved ones, favorite animals, the king and various others.

This custom of excess toasting crossed the Atlantic and took hold in early America. The practice was disdained by many because such excessive toasting often led to debauchery. When Prohibition was enacted in 1920, toasting fell out of favor because securing adequate amounts of alcohol for elaborate parties became more difficult.

With the repeal of Prohibition, toasting once again became the norm, but toasts never regained the elaborateness or inventiveness of earlier centuries.

Next week we will be toasting the New Year with heavy hearts. If attending a gathering and offering a toast, think of something civil, original, brief and appropriate to say to your host and to others. It is alright to be funny. At times like these humor helps. But remember, a toast is not a roast, but a verbal gift.

As we approach 2013, my toast or prayer to you, gentle readers, is not funny, but relevant to our times. From the last verse and refrain of “The Prayer” recorded originally by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli written by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager, Alberto Testa and Tony Renis are the following words:

“We ask that life be kind and watch us from above. We hope each soul will find another soul to love. Let this be our prayer. Just like every child. Who needs to find a place. Guide us with your grace. Give us faith so we’ll be safe.”
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Uncorked: Make the most of your toast by Pat Kettles
Special to The Star

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