Written by: Ilaria Bevan
For many, a slice of toast is a class breakfast staple. The possibilities are endless - from butter to nutella, avocado to cream cheese and blueberries (yes that is a combination and it is delicious), toast is certainly the most versatile breakfast base. Let’s be honest, we all strive to create that aesthetically pleasing slice that screams culinary perfection. However, Japanese ‘toast artist’, Manami Sasaki, takes the carb canvas to a whole new level.
Known as @sasamana1204 on Instagram, Sasaki spent lockdown in Tokyo cooking (or toasting) up a storm for her social media followers. After experiencing the all too familiar sluggish lockdown blues, Sasaki wanted to change her routine and become more productive with her mornings. Her daily go-to breakfast has always toast, so the decision to make her morning meal exciting would certainly be a positive start. With that her toast art was born.
Her process is this: First she plans her design of the day. Once this concept has been decided, Sasaki goes to the supermarket to select her ‘paints’. She only chooses the freshest, most organic ingredients, taking into consideration how the toppings will change colour and shape once toasted. Upon returning home, Sasaki selects her piece of white bread (resembling a slice you would find in a loaf of Hovis’ “soft white” bread) and then starts work upon her canvas. Sasaki is incredibly meticulous and creative with her ingredients, not only in the innovative selection of toppings that will come to resemble the colours of her subjects, but also in how they are arranged on the bread. She goes so far as to pipe cream cheese to make flower petals and red cabbage to resemble the collar of a Kabuki costume. Finally, once she is happy with her final composition, she places it in her grill as a final flourish that brings all her hard work together. Whilst her food combinations might seem strange, she says they are quite delicious.
Sasaki’s edible pictures engage with a wide range of topics including floral patterns, recreations of famous artists’ work such as Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian and American cartoons like Mickey Mouse and the “All True Romance” comic strip. However, her most frequently produced pictures are taken from Japanese culture. Sasaki wishes to use her toast art to present her native Japanese culture in a fun and exciting way to her followers on Instagram, 80% of which are international. These intricate pictures take inspiration from beautiful scenes of young geisha women produced by ukiyo-e artists including Utagawa Kunisada, Kitagawa Utamaro, and Keisai Eisen. She also creates other images based on zen garden culture and typical Japanese symbolism. Many of her most innovative creations constitute her “STAY HOME” series that she began during the summer lockdown on her Instagram page made between 25 April 2020 - 13 October 2020.
To end, I will discuss a few of my favourite toast creations. Hopefully they provide some inspiration that will brighten up your breakfast over the coming colder months.
This simple, yet elegant design depicts the black moon and is made from a rather striking combination of squid ink and bread. Her ability to recreate the textures of the moon in such a considerate manner is particularly impressive. To top off this refined picture, she has added edible gold detailing underneath the word “MOON” that perfectly compliments the monochromatic moonscape.
Using fruit such as blueberries, pineapple, kiwi and dragon fruit, Sasaki has created a vibrant rendition portrait of one of the most iconic figures in art history - Pablo Picasso. This meticulous arrangement of sweet fruits depicts Picasso in his signature abstracted style that recalls pictures like The Red Armchair (1931).
Perhaps my favourite of all her works, this toasted slice recreates one of the most beautiful traditions within Japanese culture, the zen garden. To create this Sasaki raked sour cream with a fork to mimic patterns one would see in the gravel and has used nuts, matcha powder and basil for the rocks and grass. This combination brings back fond memories from my visit to the beautiful rocks garden at Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto. Once toasted, the ingredients turn golden and melt into one another, creating a mouth-watering scene.
Focusing on the work and subject matter of ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Kunisada, Sasaki’s delicate scene depicts a young Japanese woman reading a scroll. The innovative use of purple cabbage the sleeves of the young woman’s costume, the delicate arrangement of shaké for her head decoration and the use of aojiso (green perilla) and shaké for the branch of pink flowers illustrates Sasaki’s sensitivity to colour and detail.