French toast, pain perdue. Considering it isn’t certain whether it originated in France at all, the latter does seem fitting – meaning “lost bread”, a way to reclaim stale, or unwanted loaves. As a child, early on Sunday mornings, while the house was gradually waking up (this was before early morning sport training and events), Dad would make us french toast for breakfast – I don’t even know how old I was. It was a weekend treat, a lazy brunch hosted at 8am, because we’re not the best at sleeping in around here. Later, I would duck down the road to the shops, the streets devoid of cars at that hour, to grab a fresh loaf from the local bakers delight. Better that than to not have french toast at all. Then we got busier, and busier – and french toast kind of dropped off the radar. I still loved it though, and it was my favourite after Saturday morning swim training – golden, rich slices of whatever bread was left-over, surrounded by generous pools of sticky maple syrup. But that gradually stopped too – one of those things that you can never put your finger on what changed or when, only that it was no longer there.
I rediscovered it at Melbourne cafes after moving here – french toast with all the bells and whistles, transformed into a sophisticated brunch dish. Twice baked and paired with creme patisserie and poached rhubarb at Three Bags Full, coconut crusted with pineapple, lime curd and coffee caviar at Industry Beans. Banana bread french toast with pears and salted caramel at Sardi. The over-the-top Elvis french toast at Seven Seeds, with banana caramel, whipped peanut butter and house cured bacon. Infinite possibilities, really. It was back on my mind, and back on the breakfast table.