Friday, 10 August 2007

The Origin and Protocol of Toasting

A while ago, while passing time at my favourite watering hole, the discussion turned to the origins and protocols surrounding the ritual of proposing a toast. It was obvious that none of my fellow counter supporters really had a clue as to what it was all about. Debates were held based on conflicting opinions, of which there were many, rather than on any sound knowledge. I had no positive contribution, rather shut your mouth and let them think you are stupid than to open it and remove all doubt. The discussion faded away, to be replaced by more important topics as discussed in such places.
Truth be told, my knowledge of the topic was limited. Up glasses, cheers, down the hatch, who is paying for the next round? To avoid any future displays of public ignorance, I went digging for a better understanding.
First things first, don’t want to get academic, but ground rules have to be established. Definitions abound, depending on what you read. The most encompassing definition is debatably the following.
“ To name a person to whose health or in whose honour or thing or sentiment to the success of which, the company is requested to drink. “ (Oxford Dictionary)
The word originates from Latin tostare, to parch, to expose to the heat of a naked flame and/or tostum , parched.
It is common knowledge that the Greeks and Romans enjoyed their wine; no Roman orgy would have been the same without it. It was also custom, and required by law, for all Romans to drink an offering to the Emperor at every meal, or suffer severe consequences. Wine was apparently the prescribed drink.
The quality of the wine in centuries past was poor in comparison with modern standards. To help neutralize the high acidity content, a piece of burnt toast was placed in the wine. There is a difference in opinion as to whether the toast also purified and/or improved the flavor of the wine or not. Nevertheless this would appear to be the first documented application of using “toast” in this way.
The Romans carried this ritual (Toasting) over to Britain, and was introduced to “the people wearing skins, painted all over in blue and with hair covering the upper lip” (Julius Caesar). The first recorded toast in Britain was round about 450AD. The British King Vortigen had a party the day before he was to be married to the daughter of a Saxon leader. During the party she raised her drinking vessel and proclaimed, “ Lord King, be of health” to which he replied “ Drink to health”. The two were duly married and lived unhappily for a short period thereafter
More to follow......

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I heard that when you toast you should look at the person in the eye and not at the glass. Is this true and where did it come from?