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Bergen County Historical Society: Let them eat “French toast”!

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the staff of the Ridgewood blog

New bridge Landing, River Edge NJ, French toast is a dish made of sliced bread soaked in beaten eggs and typically milk, then pan fried. The Bergen County Historical Society gives us the run down on the history and back ground of “French Toast”.

Friday’s Fare from Historic New Bridge Landing Payn Perdue Evident from the circa 1st century Latin recipe book Apicius, the Romans were already dipping stale bread into egg & frying up “pan dulcis”.

Still popular in the Middle Ages, the impoverished fed their families this bread which incorporated a bit of protein. France called it “payn perdu” [lost bread] using bread that is dry, stale, or just past fresh. 14th century Germans called it “arme ritter”[poor knights]. About the same time a cook at French court, Guillaume Tirel, 1310-1395 [aka Taillevent, French for “wind cutter”, i.e. idle swagger] presented a similar dish,”tostées dorées” [golden toasts], and the author of Le Viandier, the first printed & the most influential French cookery book of the time.

Along the way, the dish acquired other names: “eggy bread”, “French-fried bread”, “poor knights of Windsor”, “Spanish toast”, “gypsy toast”, “German Toast”, “nun’s toast”, & so on. In Scotland, it’s been served with sausage between two slices, like a sandwich.

The recipe came to America & like those an ocean away, they perpetuated this practical use for the staff of life gone stale. [Considering bread then did not have preservatives, so went from being fresh rather quickly, but was economically being used in the many old recipes requiring old bread or bread crumbs.] Eventually, it came to be French Toast. A story goes that Albany, NY innkeeper Joseph French created his version in 1724; French’s Toast. However in error, it was advertised as French Toast. By forgetting to add the possessive apostrophe, he not only ceased “ownership” of his toast, but handed over credit to an entire country. In America an indigenous sweeter Maple Syrup was used, becoming what we eat today, and then recently there are the many gourmet versions.

Recipe used is from John Farley’s The London Art of Cookery, 1792, which is not far from today’s, Topped with a melted sauce of 4 tablespoons butter; 2 tablespoons brandy[had no sack], & 1 tablespoon sugar; rich and pretty tasty.

One thought on “Bergen County Historical Society: Let them eat “French toast”!

  1. Thank you for posting!

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