Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A French Toast Story.

I really want to eat some french toast right now. I don't know why, but I really do.

Let me tell you a story.

Many years ago, in a land far far away where magical fairies roamed the city streets with their huge machetes and giant monster rats torpedoed their way down back alleys, I lived in an apartment building with several roommates. As it happened, one of my roommates was German.

One day my German roommate was cooking something in the kitchen. This something smelled good.

My curiosity was piqued, so I strolled into the kitchen to examine his culinary concoctions. What I saw at that moment was the most incredible vision, something so amazing I thought I was going to die and go to heaven (or hell, unfortunately my whole heaven/hell situation is still up in the air).

What I saw was magnificent, dazzling, beyond reproach...

What I saw was...

French toast.

Up to that point I had never eaten french toast, let alone seen a french toast. Frankly, I thought french toast was the great American myth, created so Americans would have some sort of reason to like us French people.

You see, I had never eaten french toast in France. I hadn't even ever heard a French person mention french toast. Maybe 'le french toast' was part of some unspoken secret that French people all knew of but never talked about. Maybe it worked like this, maybe when you were born in France you were born with an instant knowledge of french toast and how to make it, a magical knowledge you had from birth due to your being born on French soil. And maybe there was some unwritten code, some law, that said that if you ever talked about french toast you would be guillotined.

And the reason why I, a French citizen, didn't have this french toast knowledge? I was born in Belgium.

So, is all this possible? Of course.

Unlikely? Indubitably.

In the end, my German roommate showed me how to make this magical bread. And yes, I know there is sweet sweet irony in this, a German kid teaching a French kid how to make something called french toast!

Later, after I had tasted the heaven that is french toast, I became extremely angry. A question kept gnawing at my soul, fueling my anger... Why, why oh why had we never eaten french toast during my childhood? We were French for godsakes, we ate croissants, reblochon, camembert, pont l'eveque, crepes, you get the point, except we never ate the one thing that truly mattered, french toast.

Little did I know the answers to all my questions would change me forever and force me to reevaluate everything I stood for, my moral code, my philosophical underpinnings, everything...

So came the day where I was to face my mother and find out the truth. It started off badly, I accused my mother of terrible things, telling her she had ruined my childhood.

And then...

Then I learned the real reason why I had a childhood sans french toast.

My mother told me everything...

French toast wasn't chic. It wasn't hip. It wasn't even semi-cool. The reality was that throughout French history french toast had been a last resort for the poorest of the poor. You ate french toast if you were starving and suffering through famine. And, most surprising of all, french toast isn't called 'french toast' in France! It's called 'pain perdu.' Lost bread...

So, this 'pain perdu,' it was made with bread that was old and stale, bread too hard to be eaten, but with the mix of eggs and milk, it became soft and edible. It was very calorific, especially if you had nothing else to eat.

So that's it. All my illusions were destroyed. If I couldn't believe in the immaculate greatness of french toast anymore, what could I believe in?

But all that being said, french toast is still the best food on earth, well, not quite, but it comes a close second to chocolate...

21 comments:

Ak-Man said...

The 'Lost Bread' . . . I have never tasted this before but continually hear about it.

Being as I dont live in a gutter, can i make Lost Bread with fresh bread?

You must have tasted Almond Croissants though. . .i can imagine Lost Bread tasting better than that. Might not be a fair comparison though cos one is like a breakfast meal and the other is a pastry like desert.

Babybull40 said...

You can make French Toast with fresh bread.. It's nice and fluffy and you can add cinnamon and fruit to it or Chocolate..it's mighty fine..It's more common now than it use to be..

Anastasia said...

That's something new I learned today, thank you (and i'm not being sarcastic when I say that). I didn't have any idea that it was considered the lowest type of meal, or class based, but reading this post reminded me of so many years ago, when I first lost my father and my mother and I were on the move constantly, until we managed to find something affordable, and yes...what we'd eat (although I was too young, back then to know its name) was French Toast.

Wow.
It's uncanny how certain things, stories/words, can resurrect moments in the past.

Good for Me said...

what a great story, seb! i too leaned something new. do pommes frites have a similar story? isn't it amazing have food can have such significance in our lives?

try this sometime. buy a loaf of challah bread. cut it very thick. make french toast and smother with butter, syrup, and powdered sugar. oh yeah, baby!

Good for Me said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mariana said...

And you bought her measly excuse? For that you should make her pay. In Portugal we also make something out of dry hardened bread, only it's called a├žorda. It's got clams (and the water they soaked in, not milk), shrimps, olive oil and coriander. Try it sometime, yummy!

Tara said...

Well now I'm hungry for French toast. And French fries, actually. But definitely the toast. I have bread and a frying pan, I just need some batter. And if eating French toast is wrong, I don't want to be right.

imhelendt said...

Well I have a totally different perspective. I grew up in probably the most French place in the US that you could grow up in: New Orleans. We've always called it lost bread. My children call it lost bread. We ate a lot of pain perdu and we weren't poor. (It's also called pain perdu in New Orleans.) When we moved the West Coast I found that not only was it different (they served it with syrup usually- like a pancake and it tasted different) but I had never even heard the term French Toast. We eat it with powdered sugar or I make a "syrup" with powdered sugar and milk. I've never really gotten used to the west coast version of French Toast so I never order it in a restaurant, I only make it at home. There are probably lots of "french" things from New Orleans and the US that you don't have in France- I never found a single beignet anywhere in Paris.

~*SilverNeurotic*~ said...

god, I love french toast and my friend mentioned it today...and now you. I might just have to make some up....wonder if we've got any stale bread anywhere.

WAT said...

How annoying! I wrote up this long cool comment only to have it vanish!

Well, the crux of it was: I love French Toast too, even without the maple syrup, following some eggs and sausage/bacon.

But my all time fav: WAFFLES!

Ak-Man said...

Somebody has to tell me how to make Lost Bread . . . just hearing u all talk about it is making me hungry!

: (

Sebastien said...

Ak-man: Oh yes, french bread, much better than almond croissants. So, my way of making it, you need some bread, couple eggs, milk, a pan, and some powdered sugar (optional). Crack the 2-3 eggs into a bowl. Mix them, then add some milk, doesn't have to be a lot. In meanwhile, the pan should be heating on the stove, not the highest temperatures, lower-med temps, add some butter into the pan. Then take a piece of bread and put it in the bowl that has the eggs and milk, use a spatula to flip the bread around so both sides get soggy. Then take the bread and put it in the pan. Cook both sides till lightly browned. And then.... If you have some powdered sugar you can add that!!!! or whatever else you like. Hope it helps :)

Babybull: French bread plus chocolate! Oh yes, I must try that!

Anastasia: I too was surprised to learn french bread had 'working' class roots. I just thought it was weird that French people never ever talked about this food! FAscinating how it's all connected together, your eating that food during a hard time in your life...

Good for me: Hmmm, pommes frites has an interesting story I think, but I can't remember it, I should look it up. Oh, I will try that challah bread, sounds good!

Mariana: Never heard of acorda, that does sound interesting! Funny how each culture has variations on similar things in all spheres...

Tara: Eating french toast is always right. Morning lunch dinner snack, it works in every and all positions...

Helen: Oh, that's so interesting! I've never been to New Orleans, that's one place I really want to visit. I should've figured that if there would be a place in the US which made the classic french toast, it would be New Orleans! I think french toast is sooo good, it should be eaten by all!

Silver: French toast, it's the talk of the net.

Wat: That's been happening a lot lately right? Weird. Oh, waffles are nice, but it's weird, I've only eaten waffles a handful of times in my life.

fringes said...

Ah, man...surely you are guest posting during Fringe Break 2007. Stories like this is what I'm looking for.

I love French toast. It's an easy meal when I don't feel like cooking. The kids love it morning, noon and night. My dad used to wake me up in the mornings and ask me to make it for him. Yum.

imhelendt said...

Seb- we had it for breakfast this morning...

Sebastien said...

Fringes: Oh, I do hope so! I would love to participate!!!

Helen: You lucky ducky!!

Sonja said...

Wow that's interesting - my parents are German too and I've been eating French toast since I was a little kid. Maybe they should call it "Deutsch Toast"...

MrManuel said...

Hmm..very interesting. If that is poor food, take away my money!

Les Quinn said...

Hope everything works out for you.

Sebastien said...

Sonja: It seems so, doesn't it!! I think it's a European thing, rather than just French...

Mrmanuel: Same here!

Les: Thank you so much, I appreciate the kind thoughts :)

Babs said...

Thanks for the history lesson of French Toast! And I've been feeding my stale bread to the birds.
Has it really been 2 weeks since I read your blog? Damn.

Ann Chulalak said...

hahhas..I like all of your stories!!!