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Is French Toast French?

French toast

 


 

Yum! Bread soaked in milk and beaten eggs, fried golden brown.  

French toast, or pain perdu (lost bread) as it is called in France may be eaten as a dessert, an afternoon tea snack "goûter", or very occasionally, for breakfast.

As the recipe uses stale bread, slices that would otherwise be thrown out or “lost” can be used, hence the name pain perdu.  Bread has been a staple food for most cultures and through the ages, food was precious with little going to waste.  So it’s not surprising a way was found to use every last crumb. 

But is French toast actually French?  

Sorry to disappoint you, but no .. it can’t possibly be French.  This ancient snack was being enjoyed even before the county of France existed!

According to the Apicius, a collection of recipes from the 4th and 5th century, the dish we now know as the French toast was prepared as early as the age of the Roman Empire.  Bread was soaked in milk with no mention of eggs, and then fried in oil or butter.  It was simply called Pan Dulcis or Aliter Dulcia which means "another sweet dish". The dish became common throughout Europe in the Middle Ages where it was important not to waste a morsel of food. It was also known as “pain a la Romaine” or Roman bread.

In the 15th century in the English court of Henry V, a version of the French toast was also very popular.  The first written mention of the dish being called “French toast” was in 1660 in a book called the Accomplisht Cook.

There is also a legend, that French toast was created by an innkeeper in New York named, Joseph French.  It’s said he created the dish in 1724, and advertised it as "French Toast".  As he was better at baking than grammar, he left out the apostrophe so the world missed out on the subtlety of “French’s toast”.

As we already know from many cookbooks dating back to the middle ages, the name “French toast” has been around since the mid-17th century, so it seems that Joseph would fail at history as well as English.

Still, it won’t stop us enjoying this delicious way to eat a humble slice of bread. 

 

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