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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

French Toast - I mean - Roman Toast - History, Recipe...and other ramblings...

Now this was a good way to start off a rainy Monday morning yesterday! :)
I made some French Toast...or should I now say "Roman" Toast....hmmm...

I love history and food facts and origins, so I did some research some time back on the history of this
breakfast favorite...through the many books I have in my collection and then of course a did quick Google search too...and I found out a lot of interesting information about French Toast that I had not known before...

And yes...I know..some of you may be saying to yourselves..."look it up in "books"? "Why waste the time? Just do an online search!" Well I did eventually...just to find out more information if I could and be sure...But, although you can find out anything these days in a second online...I still like to do
research the old fashioned way, and take the time to find it in books...Isn't that more fun anyway? Doesn't taking the easy way out so to speak take some of the mystery out of it? The thrill of the hunt...the search..and then the prize of discovering and finding out the answers? Doesn't it remove the romance from it all? lol Well, to me it just makes life more...well, I don't know...cool...for lack of a better word....some may call me old fashioned! lol but reading and looking through a bunch of old books is like heaven to some people I guess... and well,  I happen to be one of them.... 

I was always at the library as a kid...and I couldn't wait until my Mother and Father's once a week trip to the library...we'd all go and gather up all the books we could and then couldn't wait to get back home and read and explore and research our favorite subjects...it was like an adventure to me....and even exciting...
My parents were both... I guess you could say...student's of life...and it's many mysteries and also very much into antiques...and my Mother was a researcher and antique dealer for many, many years...so I guess it just runs in the blood :)
When going to flea markets and tag sales or maybe I should say yard sales (as I recently learned Tag Sale is perhaps an East Coast , possibly Connecticut term...lol ).... I would always love looking through everything.. but would especially stop and get mesmerized by and lost in the books...
The look...the feel, the smell..the discovery....I was in my glory and could spend hours not even realizing what time it was....and usually having to be coaxed and pulled away...lol....
I was fascinated with so many subject as a child...from all of the ancient cultures...Egypt, Rome and Greece to The Middle Ages and Renaissance and the well known artists, sculptors, scholars and builders of the time like Leonardo Da Vinci....to World War I and II...I could not get enough and would spend hour upon hour immersed in the past....Social Studies, Ancient Civilizations, Anthropology, Archaeology...were some of my favorite subjects and continue to be to this day. I was...and still am...a huge bibliophile...or as we said growing up...simply, a book worm....but I digress...

So now back to the French Toast...
As I was saying..some time back I was making some French Toast one night and decided to look it up....I had enjoyed this savory breakfast classic for years as we all have...but I had a feeling there was more to it...and what I found was somewhat surprising to me..and to what we all have been taught...here in the US anyway...I knew it had its roots in early American history...with the French immigrants that came here popularizing the term...I knew it was a way to make food last and make use of all of the ingredients one had to feed their family of the times...wasting food was never done as it is today...I also knew somewhat, that many cultures make there own version and have their own name for it....a Facebook friend from the UK told me they call it "Poor Knights of Windsor...what I did not know...is that this classic breakfast meal was not French at all...it was made long before France was even a country...originally made in 4th century Rome...so to use the historical idiom..."All Roads Lead to Rome" which is now a common metaphor...it would take it's true literal meaning in this case..or at least somewhat....lol...
The earliest reference to this meal of soaking bread in eggs and milk and frying it in oil and/or butter dates back to an ancient Roman cookbook written by Apicius and it is thought to even predate this by many years...It was called at the time "pan dulcis" and was basically the same dish as we know it today...with sometimes honey being used as a topping instead of the now longtime popular maple syrup....
This cooking practice spread through Europe through the Middle Ages...and became known as "pain perdu" or "Lost Bread" in France and many other places as well...which it is still called today...but before the French called it "pain perdu" they called it "Pain a la Romaine" or.."Roman Bread".

All in all, I found this French Toast historical quest for me to be very interesting...especially now knowing that as far back as the 4th century their were cookbooks! I also love knowing that so many cultures over so many centuries have their own wonderful version...and name for it...and no matter who you were or where you were from...we as people all had the same needs and reasons behind doing the things that we did  to survive and showed so much ingenuity...who would have thought that French Toast came about by using stale or day old bread and combining it with the protein of the eggs and milk had that had such deeper meaning...and necessity....besides just simply being an experiment, or accident and just simply tasting so darn good!! It's awesome really.... knowledge is so great...and I think helps one learn, understand and appreciate so many things in life..and also each other....even with something as trivial as French Toast! :) Or as I now will henceforth refer to it in my house... Roman Toast! :)

On with the recipe...
Here is a pic of my Roman Toast below...I woke up Monday morning... as we all sometimes do...with this on my brain...lol...and I set out to make it right away! I'm sure many of you have made it a million times and probably better than me...and it's delicious...lol...but here's my take on the recipe...

I used Italian bread...left over from the weekend...cut fairly thick...but you may use whatever bread you prefer or have on hand at the time....

The take 3 eggs...crack them in a large bowl...add a splash of milk, a pinch of salt and mix it together.
I prefer to use a fork to beat the eggs...not a whisk or blender...it's just how I was taught as a child...and I think it makes a difference and comes out better this way...lol...but it probably doesn't really matter....
I raise the fork high a number of times during this process to create some air in the mixture....
And then comes a secret ingredient  to be added...which my Mom taught me...and her Mom before that. I have yet to find it in anyone's recipe to date...well not yet anyway...but I am sure there is someone out there that does do this as well...I think it makes all the difference in the world...
But,  I shall refrain from telling it here and  hold on to it and save it's secret for my cookbook :) 

Put a drop of olive oil in a large frying pan...rub it around to coat the bottom...add some butter or margarine if you prefer....

Dip the bread slices in the egg mixture...making sure to saturate it completely...and then, fry it up! 
Make sure it gets a nice delicious golden brown looking color on both sides...

I topped mine with butter and some Maple Syrup...but you can do all sorts of things....fresh fruit is delicious or even a spoonful of Nutella! Whatever trips your trigger...LOL...of course a must for me is also a nice tall glass of icy cold milk...
Next time I want to try the way of the ancients and use some honey....I bet it's good!!! :)


                                                             Click photo to enlarge

I thank you all for stopping by my blog and for taking the time to read this post and for showing such interest and support. Whether it is of me, my music and my food posts and ramblings...it truly is all so encouraging and please...share your own personal thoughts, ideas, stories and family tips and experiences by leaving your comments here...and feel free to pass it on to your friends, family and colleagues if you think they might enjoy...

I know that I may not  be that seasoned a professional when it comes to the blogging world as of yet...lol...with all the bells and whistles...but, it is a work in progress...and I am learning and getting there...and I hope you enjoy reading...and sharing a bit of our lives together along the way...

The cookbook I am working on slowly but surely is still in development and is getting there too...I will keep you posted! :) If any of you,  and especially all of my wonderful author friends...may have any inside knowledge, tips, advice or experience in this area and in publishing a book or downloadable e-book, please get in touch....your help would be greatly appreciated!
Have a beautiful new week everyone!
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Love,
Joe

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