Despite its name, classic French toast was invented in Ancient Rome, not in France. While this has absolutely no bearing on the taste, we thought we’d help clear this up right away. Let’s explore some other names for the popular sweet breakfast option. There’s eggy bread, pain perdu, plus gypsy toast, another fun one to say is Bombay toast! Let’s see what else we can dig up.
How did it all begin? Well, the earliest mention of French toast comes from Apicius, an old Roman cookbook with Latin recipes. It describes breaking “fine white bread, crust removed, into rather large pieces which soak in milk [and beaten eggs. You then] fry in oil, cover with honey and serve.” You can bet they didn’t call it French toast then, but aliter dulcia, which translates to a lackluster title of “another sweet dish.” Definitely less pizzazz than, say, gypsy toast or Bombay toast.
On the streets of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) Bombay toast appeals to tourists as it not only sounds fun and exotic, but it has a very familiar taste! For the name of gypsy toast, reasons are less clear. However, it’s thought to reference the repurposing stale bread by dressing it up in various ways. By far, one of the better names the German, Danish, and Norweigans use for the breakfast is Poor Knights. This actually differs from the classic French toast as it contains sherry…
This name comes from an order of knights set up by King Edward III, after the Battle of Crécy (1346). The French captured many of knights and forced them to sell their estates to secure ransom funds and their safe release. These Alms Knights, or Poor Knights, were lodged in the Windsor Castle and paid a small pension in return for ongoing duties. This small pension meant they could normally only afford to eat fried bread… with no maple syrup in sight. Apparently, if any of the Poor Knights were to acquire assets over a certain amount, they would have to find their own lodgings.
It seems almost a cruel dig that some call the French toast Poor Knights. But what do the French call French toast? They call it pain perdu, or “lost bread” for obvious reasons.The French-Canadian name for French toast is just as simple: pain doré, which translates to “golden bread”.
Let’s look at the method of preparation, which is almost always the same regardless of its name. Calling for stale bread, eggs, and milk, it’s versatile enough to bounce between the realms of sweet and savoury. Our preference: sweet, of course! This generally means adding sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and syrup. But in no way do you need to restrict the revived bread to just these ingredients – look for yourself to see variations of French toast including berries, banana, Nutella, sauteed apples, peaches and cream, caramel, even candied nuts, fancy figs, and ricotta.
Whatever you call it, and however you dress it up, we can all agree there’s nothing like some classic French toast. In honour of those Poor Knights, why not see where you can find syrup-soaked French toast near you!
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