I was recently introduced to a local celebrity, a friend of a friend, who said we’d have a lot in common. This sort of thing happens to all of us — sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t — but when the friend in question turns out to be a pig, one feels more than the usual amount of stranger aversion. What could we possibly have to talk about? Pretty much oink.
Of course, it never pays to make assumptions. I knew in one glance that Mercy Watson, the curly-tailed heroine of local author Kate DiCamillo’s charming children’s book series, would be a lifelong friend. It didn’t take us long to discover that we have but one thing in common: an uncommon love of hot, buttered toast. In these carbophobic times, one longs to meet a fellow traveler. Ah but for one frustrating moment it seemed we were doomed to sit, nose to snout, all our best adventures, our most glutenous hopes and dreams, ready to pour forth — yet silenced for lack of a common language.
Not surprisingly, Mercy, the porcine wonder, knows a pig-whisperer. Victoria Stewart was the playwright for Mercy Watson to the Rescue, which is playing at Children’s Theatre Company now through October 23. The play is a stirring roman á clef: Mercy heroically saves many lives, including those of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Watson, and makes unlikely allies of the fireman, animal control, and a rather curmudgeonly neighbor — all in the name of toast.
Here, in our brief discussion via Victoria Stewart, Mercy reveals a more contemplative side, gamely talking about literary heroes, the horrors of vegemite and lost toasters, and the upside of cold, dry toast.
HEAVY TABLE: How did you discover your love of toast — of all the tasty snacks?
MERCY WATSON: I used to eat pretty much anything I could find with my very sensitive snout, nuts, berries, mushrooms, grubs. But the Watsons introduced me to toast — Mr. Watson likes a lumberjack special — and it was love at first sight. The Watsons fell in love with me and I fell in love with toast.
HT: Is toast simply a vehicle for butter, or do you have a favorite bread? If it’s all about the butter, how do you feel about cold toast, which Lynne Rossetto Kasper has said exists so that we can better taste the butter?
MW: I will eat toast, warm or cold, slightly chilled or piping hot, but optimally my toast is warm and the butter has melted so that there is a contrasting texture of crunchy and salty squishiness. But the Watsons have some British cousins — the Watson-Watsons — who send me a block of Double Devon Cream every year for my birthday and I could get behind this butter on cold toast.
But this Lynne Rossetto Kasper, she sounds like a true soul mate! She has a standing invitation to come over for one of Mrs. Watson’s Saturday Somethings. We would have a LOT to talk about.
HT: What is the meaning of your special blue plate?
MW: The Watsons registered at Tiffany’s when they were expecting their porcine wonder.
HT: How much toast is enough toast?
MW: An endless stack would do me just fine.
HT: Toast: snack or meal?
MW: Toast is both a snack and a meal. And a dessert when made correctly.
HT: Aside from butter, are there any other toppings you enjoy?
MW: Cinnamon and sugar are lovely. Jam, I like jam, especially raspberry, rhubarb, and peach. Apple butter, plum butter, strawberry butter. Marmalade or lemon curd. Have I mentioned jam? But ideally there’s a layer of butter underneath any and all of these.
HT: Toast clearly brings people together. If you could eat toast with anyone, who would it be?
MW: Wilbur, Piglet, Babe, and Olivia would be nice to have over. Also, I’d like to share some toast with George Orwell and ask him if the world were run by pigs, wouldn’t it obviously be a better place? I think so.
HT: In your life, have you ever experienced a travesty of toast? Please describe.
MW: The Watsons once had their Australian cousins, the Watson-Watson-Watsons, over for “a fort-night,” whatever that is. I made the mistake of stealing toast off their plate and it was covered with something called vegemite? I don’t know what THAT was about but it almost cured me of toast-stealing. Almost.
HT: Similarly, when your toaster was almost stolen, how did you feel contemplating its loss?
MW: I don’t want to talk about it. That was a very difficult time.
HT: Are you and toast forever or will there come another favorite?
MW: Burnt Bread Forever or BBF, as the kids like to say.
HT: Since toast is the only food you eat, can you attribute your adventuring, happy, and very healthy life to a diet of toast?
MW: While I love toast, there are many other things I can eat. Butter Barrels. Buttered Popcorn, Butter Cookies. The list of buttered things goes on and on. And I like a pansy or two, but only when I eat them in Eugenia’s yard. They just taste better over there!
Toast has a special place in my heart, however. And it has led to meeting new people and seeing new places. One day, I hope to eat toast on top of the Eiffel Tower! But toast really brings people together. Anyone can make it, anyone can eat it. I can’t recommend it enough.
HT: How much toast would it take to make a friend of Eugenia?
MW: While Eugenia always has a scowl on her face and her hand in a fist that she shakes at me, I know she loves me. Why else would she play tag with me so often? So I think the magic of toast has worked its spell, even on Eugenia.
HT: Is there any problem toast can’t solve?
MW: If there is, I haven’t found it yet!