The Secretive Life of French Toast

Jun 29, 2018 | Food and Culture

At first glance, it’s easy to assume that French Toast is just bread dipped in egg and fried. Ha, ha, ha! How wrong you are! Okay, well yes, that is what it is but it’s also so much more. So, what secrets could French Toast be hiding beneath that golden, syrup covered exterior? Well, nothing big…just the secret to life!

Okay, maybe that was a little dramatic but seriously, French Toast holds an important lesson for all of us. But before we get into it, let’s look at the origin story a little.

Where did French Toast Come From? 

One might assume that French Toast originates in France. That’s a fair assumption but you’d be wrong. It was those crazy old Romans who invented it. The term French Toast didn’t appear in  English until about the 17th century. I’m guessing it was the French that introduced it to the British and that’s why we call it French Toast.

Although the origin is interesting, I’m more interested (because it serves my point) in what the French call French Toast and why.

In France (and Quebec) French Toast is known as “pain perdu”. “Pain” means bread, and “perdu” means lost. So the French term for French Toast is “lost bread”. So what does lost bread mean? Well, dear reader, this is where it all comes together.

The term lost bread refers to the fact that the dish, French Toast or Pain Perdu, is traditionally made with stale bread. Bread that otherwise would have little to no use. Not that long ago there was no plastic to wrap bread in to keep it fresh and so the bread would go stale very quickly. They needed a way to use leftover bread so that they weren’t throwing money away and most people had an abundance of eggs as they raised their own chickens.

The dish itself is obviously very simple. Literally, a child can make it. But it’s the ingenuity that’s important to think about here. It’s the use of leftovers, and what you have in abundance to create something new and delicious. It’s about letting little to nothing go to waste.

I think that this is really important to keep in mind as grocery prices keep going up but our incomes stay the same. We all need to find ways to save money in the kitchen as food is generally one of our biggest expenses. And so, looking at leftovers, and odds and ends in your fridge in a different way can save you money and from wasting perfectly good food. I know that I could stand to look at things a little more like Pain Perdu. What about you?

2 Comments

  1. Renee

    Once again, what a great post. What a great reminder to waste nothing. I grew up in a home where nothing was thrown out. And French Toast was a meal I could make from a young age. My kids too. We have all sorts of fun with this go to meal. Stuffed French toast is a favourite of mine and the kids.

  2. Chef Ben Kelly

    When I was young, my mom was a master of using leftovers. She also made like 12 different varieties of french toast. I think banana stuffed was always my favourite.

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