06 February 2007

Not Really French, Maybe Not Even Food, But it Worked for Me

A few weeks back, I came down with a bad case of stomach flu.

It crept up, as these things do, in the middle of the night. In my experience, the bug is usually gone by mid afternoon the following day, but this time, I was not so lucky. I called in sick and languished on the sofa all day, devoid of enthusiasm for anything. Around 3 p.m., I dragged myself into the kitchen to make tea, using my Yixing tea set, shown above.

I bought the set a few years ago in April. The sleek jade green teapot and cups were my gift to myself after an especially taxing and stressful winter. I use it for green tea only, this time making green tea with mint. It helped. I think the beauty of the tea set was soothing, too.

But what really made me feel better was supper. When my stomach is upset, I crave French toast, which some say is the American version of the French "pain Perdu," or lost bread. French toast and milk.

So my husband, who is nice about these things, made me French toast. He was tired, after a long day of meetings, and made it from what we had on hand. Which happened to be somehting no self-respecting foodie would admit to eating: Mrs. Karl's Bread.

For the unfamiliar, Mrs. Karl's in its blue-and-white check wrapper, is like Wonder Bread. You get the picture.

My husband and I differ on the issue of bread. I grew up in a household where it was baked regularly, by my father, or his mother. I love baking bread. I love kneading bread. I love the aroma and the taste of freshly baked bread.

I loath most of the stuff for sale at grocery stores.

But on this particular night, the French toast my husband made was the sweetest and most delicious supper I could have eaten. It settled my stomach. It made me feel cared for and loved.

The toast melted in my mouth. The butter was soft and, well, buttery. The syrup was sweet (Mrs. Butterworth, meet Mrs. Karl). I felt better after the first bite. Plus, it tasted like childhood.

Sometimes, the love with which a meal is prepared and served makes the most ordinary food taste good. That is one of the secrets of cooking from the heart, my reoccurring theme this month. (It also helped that I was feeling so lousy.)

When we were kids, mother would make beanburgers at the end of the week. We loved 'em, but as my brother once pointed out, they were probably served because they were cheap and it was the day before payday. Same principle.

(OK, food blog police: Come and get me. Just remember, Tanna, who recently made a delicious-looking onion-cheese bread with Bisquick, and I want kitchen privileges.)

Now, we've all had these meals. Maybe it was a quick bite from a street vendor after a bracing walk in winter. Maybe it was the time you and your best friend (or lover) bought sandwiches and ate them at a park in the middle of town or at the lighthouse. Maybe it was a meal mom cobbled together during hard times. Share?

21 comments:

Lydia said...

All meals prepared with love taste wonderful. I remember my first cheese dog (really....), prepared and served with pride by our son when he was 8 or 9 years old. It was wonderful, though not particularly delicious.

Mimi said...

He started early, your son!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

It is true love does change food. Our youngest son microwaved a potato for me after I ran my first marathon and was so sore I couldn't/ wouldn't come down the stairs for dinner. It was the best ever baked potato.
I'm working with the blog police, I think they're going to let us have a kitchen!
This was really sweet in all directions.

Mimi said...

What nice sons my blogger friends have!

Thanks, Tanna.

Pepper said...

Mimi, if you have Bisquick day I will join if I am allowed to use homemade baking mix.

Mimi said...

Why not? I think it could be fun, Pepper.

I've got to do some thinkjing and come up with a framework for this special event...

Erika said...

Oh my gosh! French toast is one of my sick-cravings too! Same exact thing- it just isn't the same unless it's made with the cheap packaged all white bread.- Mrs. butterworth's and all.

I'd join in a Bisquick event... ;-)

Mimi said...

Cool!

This is the best French toast ever.

(Oh, dear, I am facing a stiff prison sentence now.)

How about March 10 is Bisquick Day?

I'll post a few guidelines at the end of the week.

Andrea said...

My husband is the exact same way - I'm always trying to get him to indulge himself with good quality bread since he has is as the main part of his meal every lunchtime but he insists on getting whatever tastesless stuff is cheapest.

I find that meals that I put together from "shopping" in my pantry tend to taste better than those made from carefully sought out and selected ingredients.

Mimi said...

Why is that, Andrea? I've been puzzling over that one.

Maybe, cooking with what we have forces us to be more creative? Maybe — since it's not cooking from someone else's recipe — it's more real, more from the heart?

Maybe we're just so glad we don't have to get out and go shopping that it tastes better. That is certainly true here right now when we've had days of subzero weather.

Ideas, anyone?

Terry B said...

French toast is food indeed, Mimi. Heavenly food, in fact. And while it may not be French, I sometimes make what I consider a Frenchified version. Whenever we have part of a baguette left over from a dinner, I'll slice it into rounds an inch or so thick and make French toast with it. Takes it to a whole new level.

Katie said...

Com'on, Mimi: French toast is supposed to be made with mushy white bread! Your hubby did just fine.

Laura Florand said...

Pain perdu isn't French? Somebody tell them! They think so, and so I do, too.

S├ębastien makes his with an old baguette (he says, old bread really works better) cut in slices, AND, the magic trick, just egg yolks in the milk, not whole eggs. That seems to make all the difference. In fact, I was thinking about writing about his recipe, but Mimi already did it better. :)

Julie said...

Ack! The picture of your tea set is not showing up. Your description is so lovely I want to see it.

Bisquick day, huh? I hope you guys won't hold it against me that I've never used Bisquick. But I can learn!

Mimi said...

Pain perdu is most definietely French!

But I did some research that indicated what we call French toast did not originate with lost bread.

I want to see both Terry B's and Sebastien's recipe and I will share mine, too. Let's coordinate something!

I like it mushy, too, Katie. Anything my husband makes is good.

Julie, we will initiate you into the wonders of Bisquick!

cityfarmer said...

OKAY...are you ready for me to write a book?

My Mom made a "breakfast supper" at least once a week on the farm...french toast, sugar eggs....bacon sandwichs...sometimes oatmeal....whatever she could "cobble" up...."Indiana put-together"...whatever she could put together....she worked in the corn fields with my Dad all day and evening and the five of us learned how to make these simple nurturing meals for the family...the two of them would come plodding in after toiling all day (planting, plowing, and all the things farmers do) and we girls would have supper ready...so simple, nurturing meals were ready and practically on the table....I wish I had time to tell you about "sugar eggs"...basically you mix 3 heaping TBS of flour and some sugar and milk, like a pancake batter texture...add some eggs and fry in a moderately hot cast iron skillet...when they "poof" you turn them over til done and sprinkle sugar over all and serve. Whoa what a flashback I just had....this was our favorite "breakfast supper" because it was a little more glamorous that srambled eggs..more like a souffle. I KNOW my Mom had never heard of a souffle. I'm off to buy some eggs.

Thank you for you sweet thought provoking posts.

Mimi said...

Thank you, City Farmer.

A woman from Iowa once told me her family's Sunday night tradition was sausage and homemade doughnuts.

It seems to me these simple but satisfying meals are great when we need to or want to wind down a bit.

Glenna said...

Absolutely agree. For me, it's the church basement recipes like the funeral potatoes, spinach dip made from the recipe on the Knorr soup box, fluffy jello salads made with the extra creamy Cool Whip, and cocktail weinies in chili sauce mixed with grape jelly. All those things remind me of home and childhood and security. I don't care how much those things gross out the la-di-da faction. They will always have a place in my heart and on my table. Just because you eat white bread once in a while doesn't mean you don't appreciate more upscale cuisine. It's not an either/or kind of deal. Isn't life great that we have so much diversity? And aren't we blessed to live in a country where we can so easily be able to get a million kinds of fresh and pre-fab foods, and to be able to afford food in all it's incantations?

Mimi said...

Yes! yes! (I am jumping up and down here!)

That is exactly it. Glenna, you are spot on!

I like all food. In moderation.

I would love to be able to make everything from scratch. But the reality is: I have a full-time job that often has me working 10 hours days 3-4 days a week and often on weekends. I have a part-time job that requires me to be there for my students, one way of another, an average of 6-8 hours a weeek. If I am lucky — and not to tired — I have 5 hours a week to really play around in the kitchen.

If I had a family, besides my husband, I'd be using a lot of Bisquick.

Charles said...

Meals from the heart? -- I have two.

As a kid, my mother would sometimes make spaghetti. She made the sauce herself, I never got the recipe. I always loved it when Mom made spaghetti, because the next day, she would take the leftover sauce, and dump a lot of chili powder in it, with a can of kidney beans, and call it chili. Without fail, the day after spaghetti, we'd have chili over rice. Sometimes now, when I'm missing mom, I'll get a jar of prego, and some kidney beans, and chili powder, and fix up some of mom's "chili".

Second favorite -- Years ago for Father's day, my daughter made me cinnamon toast and brought it to me for "breakfast in bed". She carefully buttered the bread, added a generous amount of cinnamon sugar, and micro-waved it! Of course I ate it, and loved it.

Mimi said...

Good stories, Charles.

I can identify with the first one a lot.

I am sure I must have made some interesting meals for my mother as a kid. I have no children myself, so I have never experienced that. But I can imagine the taste — it would be fabulous!