French toast is full of memories

By Candace Nelson - 7:04 PM

French Toast-3

Here's my latest column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

What’s the one food that conjures up fond memories for you?

It could be the cookie recipe passed down to you from your grandma. Maybe a coveted casserole your aunt brought to your family reunions. Or the beans and cornbread you made on chilly fall nights.

For me, it’s the French toast my dad made every Sunday morning after my childhood birthday party sleepovers.

As a January baby, birthday parties can be complicated. Not only are purse strings tight because it’s right after the holidays, but the weather is also unpredictable. During my childhood, that led to Candace’s Annual Birthday Slumber Party.

These nights were usually filled with movies, snacks, lots of giggling and seeing how late we could stay up. And, the next morning was our favorite part: Frank’s Famous French Toast.

Standing in front of the hot stove, my dad would dredge a piece of white bread through an egg mixture with the perfect amount of spices. He would flip slice after slice after slice of French toast to golden brown perfection. Then, he’d announce when another piece was almost ready, and a girl would run up to claim it.

By the end of breakfast, everyone was staring at a half-eaten stack of French toast, bellies full, stuffed to the gills, as my dad asked if we were “already” full. Then, he would finish up what we couldn’t.

We still joke about one of my best friends, Kelly, who had eyes bigger than her stomach and would claim all of the sausage links but could only finish about half of them.

Now, I know we were using the 99-cent loaf of white bread then, and milk and eggs because they were affordable kitchen staples. But as I become more in touch with my roots, I’ve been thinking of ways to make one of my favorite meals incorporate more Appalachian flavor.

The bread could be homemade — or try using salt rising bread, which is a traditional Appalachian bread created by settlers. Rising Creek Bakery, in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania, makes a delicious version.

Source your eggs locally at your local farmers market. Farm-fresh eggs tend to be healthier and have a longer shelf-life than ones you may get in the grocery store. And, if you’re like me and only want a couple, your local farmer may be happy to sell you just three at a time.

Local maple syrup is one of the best ways to upgrade your French toast. Head to a local farm, like Family Roots Farm, to pick up a bottle of fresh syrup right from the land. This farm even sells their award-winning “Maple Sugar,” and “Maple Cream,” which can take your French toast to the next level.

However you decide to construct your breakfast, this dish is ripe for personalization and fine-tuning for your preferences. It can be simple and cost-effective for large groups or incorporate artisanal products sourced locally. But, I hope, in whatever form it takes, that it helps create memories for you and yours.

What’s your personal take on French toast?

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