The Crunch Heard Round the World

Illustrations by Mark Nerys

Pa Amb Tomàquet
Practically the national dish of Catalonia. To make it, toast some sliced country-style bread, then rub both sides of the bread with the business end of a half-tomato, drizzle with olive oil, and don’t forget to season with salt. Rubbing the bread with a clove of raw garlic is optional.

No one is more particular about the preparation and consumption of toast than the British, who eat it buttered for breakfast, pair it with tea any time of day, and are responsible for such innovations as cinnamon toast, beans on toast, and the ever-popular Welsh rabbit (see below).

Welsh Rarebit, A.K.A. Welsh Rabbit
The mother of all toasted cheese sandwiches. It’s typically a mixture of sharp Cheddar, beer, butter, English mustard, and Worcestershire sauce spread across a slice of tight-crumbed toasted bread and then given a Jersey Shore tanning-booth session under the broiler.

Meticulously designed Danish open-face sandwiches topped with everything from raw beef to smoked eel and sometimes served on toast, as they are at the East Village restaurant Vandaag.

The French open-faced sandwich (from tartiner, to spread), eaten with various toppings for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and made to best effect on thin slices of toasted pain au levain from Paris’s Poilâne bakery.

The Tuscans, clever folk, invented bruschetta to flaunt their delicious olive oil. Large, rustic slices of bread are grilled or toasted, vigorously rubbed with garlic, generously drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, and seasoned with salt. Adding some chopped tomato and basil is all right, but purists look askance at Baroque toppings.

Smaller, thinner, and crisper Italian toasts—like bruschetta on a weight-loss regime. They’re typically oiled but not garlicked, and often spread with chicken liver or, in Rome, bone marrow.

From the Italian fetta (a slice) and unta (greased or oiled), this is yet another term for bruschetta in Tuscany.

The Crunch Heard Round the World