A toast to spring

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The weather toaster is pure genius. Drop in a slice of white, wheat or rye, and before you've dripped that first cup of coffee, out pops a golden weather report, burnished right into the bread. Perhaps a radiant sun and 18 (Celsius of course). But even a dripping cloud and 4 degrees Celsius can't dampen the delight of having the weather broadcast in toast.

Here is a melding of high-tech and low-brow that surpasses even the iPhone, which, for all its appeal, tastes lousy.

The weather toaster's only flaw is that it doesn't exist. Online, you can admire its clever ways, but on Earth it inhabits that gray area the entrepreneur calls "conceptual" and the rest of us call "as if."

Shelve it alongside the personal jet pack, flying car and Mars vacation.

Meanwhile, we'll have to rely on the ordinary weather report for signs of spring: sog, soft serve — and strawberry, which is particularly nice sweetened with sugar, sharpened with mint and leavened with bubbles. You can achieve the soda-fountain effect by ordering a fancy contraption that turns plain water bubbly. Or you can open a bottle of seltzer.

Not glamorous, but it works. Which is more than you can say for the weather toaster.

Strawberry soda

Prep: 1 hour, plus chilling time

Cook: 5 minutes

Makes: About 2 cups syrup, enough for 8 sodas

4 cups sliced strawberries (from about 2 pounds strawberries)

2 cups sugar

Zest of 2 lemons

2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Ice

Whole mint leaves

Seltzer

Sugar:

Heap strawberries in a large saucepan. Stir in sugar. Let rest 45 minutes. Strawberries will release much of their juice.

Boil:

Stir in zest and chopped mint. Bring to a big frothy pink boil. Boil 4 minutes, stirring and mashing with a spoon; mixture will darken and thicken slightly. Stir in lemon juice.

Chill:

Strain through a medium-mesh strainer set over a wide heat-proof measuring cup, pressing firmly on berries with a rubber spatula. Discard solids. Let syrup cool. Pour into a clean glass jar, seal and chill.

Serve:

For each drink fill a tall (12 ounce) glass with ice. Drop in a mint leaf or two. Pour in ¼ cup strawberry syrup and 1 cup seltzer. Stir. Enjoy.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.

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