(The Butter Plate to accompany the Toast Rack Society) by Tom Cummings
One Friday in December, during a random walk through a Belgian auction house specializing in ancient books and long forgotten pamphlets, I discovered a new magazine launched in 1901 during the Belle Epoque of France : L’Assiette Au Beurre (The Butter Plate).
Roughly translated it means “The Pork Barrel”. I could not fathom what a butter plate and pork barrel would have in common, and my French is not sufficient to crack the enigmas of French alusion. At the same time, I thought, perhaps I am on a Toast Rack expedition, as other kitchen utensils might possess double meanings to go with their meaninglessness.
I vowed to investigate further, knowing that I might initiate a new British Toast Rack Society tradition of uncecessary but compelling expeditions, with the strapline :
“Let no rabbit hole go uninspected.” (a lesson I learned from observing my French born Jack Russell, Lilou, whom Lewis Carroll would be proud of).
While perusing the first addition of L’Assiette Au Beurre, (in white gloves of course) two aspects of the browning, dog-eared magazine caught my attention: first was that it was a wickedly satirical magazine with anarchist political leanings, written in a tradition not unlike Toast Rack Chronicles, and second, the strange magazine cover illustrated by Théophile Steinlen of ‘Chat Noir’ fame.
The cover featured a group of downtrodden people crowded together in a room all wearing winter clothing and appearing to be miserably cold. They all observed a man behind a drafting table who was closely studying a newspaper with a pile of money on the table. The title:
Caisse de Grève –
Et Le Citoyen-Ministre, Il N’envoie rien? Si, 3000 Hommes de Troupe.
The Strike check-out box –
And the citizen-minister, isn’t he going to send anything? Yes! 3000 troops.
Puzzled by this cryptic message, I continued my pursuit of nonsense with the hope I would have something to share with my fellow toast racketeers.