Breakfast at Home: French Toast

Sundays are kind of a mixed bag around here. Some weeks it’s all Up to read the paper!! Do the puzzle with Will Shortz on NPR!! Go to the YMCA when it opens at 10:00!! Get a little gardening in before lunch!! Then there are Sundays like today. When I want to stay in my flannel sushi pajamas until noon, do little more than knit and watch old movies, only the most basic and necessary exertion. We celebrated my sister’s birthday here last night and, well, it was fun. Let’s just leave it at that.

When I got up early to make a pot of coffee and drink my weight in water, I realized—as I do most mornings like this—that I needed some sustenance. No toasted English muffin today. I spied the bag with remnants of last night’s baguette (used for crostini that got 2 toppings, roasted garlic with kale pesto, and garlicky roasted chiles with marinated mozzarella). French toast. That’s what I needed, French toast. Like a Frenchtoast_4bowl of ice cream after dinner or the occasional peanut butter-mayo-lettuce sandwich (a tasty quirk of my father’s), French toast was something of a ritual around my house when I was growing up. I recall the bowl (a casual white Noritake with ridges around the edge, from our time in Japan) and fork (a fancy-looking silver thing with fluted edges and spiky tines) that were the standard tools of production. The bowl’s surely long broken, I wonder where that fork is?

So, the ingredients came out: a couple of eggs, some sugar, vanilla, half-and-half, a tiny drizzle of almond extract, cinnamon. Then I went to find the maple syrup in the fridge so I could warm it up (I learned a while back that good maple syrup needs refrigerating; I mean, who needs to look at fuzzy blue maple syrup first thing in the morning?). Where is it? Behind the mustard? Buried under containers of olives? No maple syrup to be found. You know how it is when you’re already salivating for something, and the prospect of suddenly being denied seems the most inhumane injustice? I wasn’t going to let this little hurdle stop me. I set about to make me something—anything—vaguely akin to maple syrup. (And not the way my mom used to “make” maple syrup by blending some syrupy substance with maple extract. I had lots of amazing food experiences while I was growing up. That wasn’t one of them.)

Now here is where I realize that I don’t have the average American pantry. And it’s part of what I love about my career, particularly in regards to these moments where it spills over into real life. I grabbed some thick, heady macadamia blossom honey from the cupboard and spooned a couple globs into a small saucepan. Added a good dose of vanilla extract, a splash of half-and-half, and then set about wondering what might help replicate the real thing’s mapleness.  What will it be, what will it be……? In the liquor cabinet what do I see but a bottle of Amber, a liqueur based on whisky, “delicately balanced with natural maple and pecan.” Bingo. Maple essence and hair-of-the-dog in one fell swoop. A generous glug into the pan and I’m on to making the French toast. Since the “syrup” is rather liquid, I decide some reducing is in order, so on to the boil. Imagine my surprise and delight (particularly with my slightly diminished faculties) when the mixture goes into flambé mode. Woo-hoo!

So here’s to the occasional lazy Sunday morning. All About Eve sits in its red Netflix envelope just waiting to be watched. I’ve got a one-of-a-kind French toast experience waiting for me. And maybe I’ll even get around to some gardening on this lovely blue-skied day. But not until after noon.

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