Sunday, September 4, 2011

What the heck is "Whiskey Toast"?

Navajo Rug is a standard on Troubadour’s play list. I will sometimes request it when Chris brings out the guitar. I like to sing along at the chorus. But, lately that first line has really been bugging me.  I kept wondering, what is “Whiskey Toast”? (The lyrics, written by Ian Tyson, and the song, popularized by Jerry Jeff Walker, begin ..."Well it's two eggs up on whiskey toast, Home fries on the side, You wash her down with the roadhouse coffee that burns up your inside...") So, I did a little research. Not only did I find a definition of whiskey toast, but we also had a good laugh on few other tidbits, too.

In fact you might wonder what was going on if you heard this when you ordered breakfast at a diner, “I need a blonde with sand, a couple of life preservers, two eggs up on whiskey toast, and sea dust.” But if you worked in a diner this might be common slang for your order.  More on that order later.

Internet research cooked up this information: “In the golden age of diners, before computerized ordering systems, the waiter or waitress would call out orders to the cooks. And to stave off boredom and to make the orders memorable and easier to hear,
they came up with their own slang.
“Diner lingo is a kind of American verbal slang used by cooks and chefs in diners and diner-style restaurants, and by the waitresses to communicate their orders to the cooks. It is virtually unknown outside the US.

“The origin of the lingo is unknown, but there is evidence suggesting it may have been used by waiters as early as the 1870s and 1880s. Many of the terms used are lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek and some are a bit racy or ribald, but are helpful mnemonic devices for short-order cooks and staff.”

We learned that “Whiskey Toast” is rye bread – maybe because whiskey is made from rye or because of the dark brown color of rye breads.
Remember that order you placed a few paragraphs back? Your waitress will put this breakfast on your table: Coffee with cream and sugar (a blonde with sand), doughnuts (life preservers), two eggs up on rye toast (whiskey toast) and some salt (sea dust).
You may still hear this lingo in cowboy country diners. Next time you place an order, chew on these:

Adam & Eve on a raft & wreck 'em: two scrambled eggs on toast
Baled hay: shredded wheat
Bloodhounds in the hay: hot dogs and sauerkraut
Burn one, take it through the garden and pin a rose on it:
hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion
Burn the British: toasted English muffin

Shit on a shingle/S.O.S.: minced dried beef with gravy on toast (it was a reviled and loved standard fare in army messes)
Shingle with a shimmy and a shake: buttered toast with jam or jelly
Keep off the grass: no lettuce
Foreign entanglements: plate of spaghetti
Mother and child reunion: chicken and egg sandwich

For more diner slang, click here Diner Lingo and remember to 
Check the ice: look at the pretty girl who just came in.
Bon Appétit


  1. Chris, thanks for the clarification on "Whiskey Toast". I was just listening to Jerry Jeff's "Navajo Rug" and decided to finally look up whiskey toast to see what it is. Too cool. Have fun on your journey.

  2. I love it! Now how about John Hartford's "Long Hot Summer Day"...what are "jolly and leavin lines" I've searched all I know how online to no avail! Thanks in advance. I'll be checking back.

  3. Aye, aye, aye, Katie. Thank you for posting this. :)

  4. Thank you! I sing the song in concert, here in Seattle, and Googled Whiskey Toast. I found your great story.

  5. I get Navajo Rug written by Tom Russell, another great writer.

  6. there is of course another great dinner song


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