At camp last week, some of us had French toast sticks. As hungry people, that had been sleeping out in the heat and not needing to prepare our own breakfast before heading off to classes, we were grateful for it, even if there was no bacon and it needed to be soaked in syrup for a bit to soften enough to cut with a fork.
What is French toast? Is it even French?
According to Dictionary.com, French toast is defined as “bread dipped in a batter of egg and milk and sautéed until brown, usually served with syrup or sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.” In the Family Trivium household, we add a dash of vanilla extract and cinnamon to the batter, but I’m sure we’re not the only chefs with that secret.
Mark Vogel has written an article over at FoodReference.com indicating that the term “French toast” originated in 17th Century England, while the dish itself dates back to Roman times. Originally, the French referred to the dish as “pain a la Romaine” or “Roman bread.”
The Breakfast Courier explains that in contemporary France the dish is referred to as “pain perdue” or “lost bread.”
French bread goes stale and hard, or is “lost” quite quickly, but a few hundred years ago, poor French families had to use it up anyway. They soaked their stale bread in eggs and milk before frying, making it easier to chew.
If the bread at camp was was softened by being made into french toast, we can’t even imagine what it was like before. Certainly, the bread at the toaster-free bread, butter, and jelly bar was softer. Given the overall cost of attending camp, we can’t really complain, though we’ll certainly comment.
Our family recipe for French toast includes eggs (the best you can find), whole milk or heavy whipping cream (when we say decadent, we mean it), a dash of vanilla extract, and some cinnamon in the batter. While we could certainly be more gourmet, we simply dip Texas toast (oh, how confusing) in this batter before frying on the griddle. Once cooked, the slices of toast come off the griddle onto a plate with a couple of thick-cut slices of bacon. While still steaming hot, this dish is placed on the breakfast table next to a jug of genuine maple syrup.
We’d love to talk more about French toast, but we’ve just made ourselves really hungry and need to get cooking. Until next time, we hope you’ll enjoy some good food, fresh air and a moment of learning.