I grew up in the 80s, that period between the slow 70s and the booming 90s when the world was near perfect. Technology was unheard of, everything was done by hand and took a lot of effort. Nothing was ready made. Eating out or using ready-to-eat products was unheard of. Amma and Appa teamed up every single day to produce three wholesome meals for the entire family, which was true of every family we knew as well.
The arrival of a new gizmo in the house was therefore a matter of too much excitement and anticipation.
Some background first! Appa was in the business of exporting electrical and electronic items to various parts of the world. An amusing side effect of being in this field was that his local suppliers would often send the newest gizmos on the market to him free of cost. I remember an ice cream maker arrived at home once. The oven of the 80s was this glass-toped aluminium circular contraption that looks like an alien flying saucer but did the job and produced some awesome desserts.
But the one contraption that I will always have very fond memories of would be the “fifty-fifty” toaster. Appa used it to make the most exotic and exciting item on the dinner or breakfast menu that we had ever eaten until that point – cheese toast.
Some more background! You see, it was not usual then for us to always have cheddar cheese in the house. Sliced cheese and spread cheese had probably not made an appearance at the time either, or if it had we were completely oblivious to these products. It was not at all typical for us to consume cheese on a daily basis but rather a rare treat to look forward to.
Appa travelled a lot for his business and would bring back many goodies from the world over. One of the things he never failed to bring back was Kraft cheddar cheese. The navy blue tin looks and tastes pretty much the same to this day.
Until the toaster arrived at our doorstep, I can’t quite remember what we did with the cheese. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was cut into cubes and consumed as a snack.
But once the toaster came home, Appa made us the most awesome sandwich ever. His signature cheese toast!
Over the years I have added to his recipe and tried to pimp it up some more. Unsuccessfully I must say. His original recipe is not just simple, it is lipsmackingly delicious. He would chop up onions and tomatoes real fine. Then he would grate loads of cheese into this mixture and finally add some finely chopped fresh coriander leaves. He would mix this up well and that would become the stuffing for the cheese toast.
He would then apply homemade ghee to the side of the bread that faced outside and close the toaster over it. The mould of the toaster would indent the sandwich smack down the middle, that’s where the name fifty-fifty came from I guess. In a few minutes, we had a hot sandwich that was crispy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside.
To this day I am transported back to that hot kitchen, all of us clamouring for hot crispy cheese toast while Appa rapidly dished out the sandwiches as if running a professional shop floor assembly line.
We would then patiently wait for the sandwich to cool down a little as the cheese filling inside would be hot enough to burn your tongue. And finally that first crunchy bite followed by the sensation of that amazing cheese filling flooding your mouth, bursting with flavour and love.
Crispy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. Just like my Appa was.