Today I enjoyed a new French Toast sensation.

For some of you, this might seem pedestrian or mundane. French Toast. Sure, okay.

But there are others out there who know where I’m coming from. Life-long lovers of French Toast, with internal scoreboards, taste-histories, reminiscence of greatness. Thick-cut, thin, custard-dipped, encrusted, stuffed, baked, smothered, dry, fruited and nutted. There is a lot of love out there.

I don’t know if everyone takes it back to the roots. I know my French Toast origins. My grandma made it. Many, many times. And I don’t remember how it tasted. I know she had the cheap “maple” syrup (which never seemed cheap until years later, when I first tasted the real thing). I don’t know if she used cinnamon or any other spices. Don’t recall anything other than standard-issue bread, no fruit. But I do remember the windows. She would cut it into ninths, cut “windows” into our French Toast. That’s the detail. That’s the most important detail. She cut those windows, and, in the cutting, imbued the French Toast with love. Serious, pure love that was unique to her. When you have a loving grandma, a real grandma who lives to fill that role, her love is unique and essential.

She died quite some time ago. My life changed after that. Family started to drift like ice floes. Life itself became more complicated as I entered my twenties. And the love dissipated. Her love. There was no one else to fill that gap. Losing someone that important, it feels like those times when you stop drinking coffee. Within a day you notice just how profound of a dependency you had, how integral this was to your personality and well-being. The solution is often to just go back to the coffee, find a point of moderation. With grandma, I guess the solution was to try to find that love in other people. And that’s futile, and an unreasonable expectation. This isn’t a degree of love. This is a type of love, and when someone leaves you, you will never experience that exact type of love, so ingrained into that personality, ever again.

But I remember the windows. Eating French Toast brings me back to that simplicity. It is a pure experience, and a thread that runs through my life. I have never eaten French Toast without, at some point during that meal, thinking of my grandma. Thinking of that love. Missing her, of course, but still having that element of her. I don’t even reflect on it very deeply, don’t recognize that the love didn’t go away. It’s right there, dipped in custard and smothered with syrup, as simple as it was when I was a kid in her kitchen.

I guess that’s why I usually cut my French Toast completely before taking the first bite.

So yes, this food means a lot. Which is why a new experience, a novel and delicious re-presentation of it, reignites the love, refills my soul.

Today’s French Toast was this: Four segments of somewhat thick bread (on the full scale, I would say a medium cut), covered in finely-chopped strawberries, a few blueberries, drizzles of some sort of caramel sauce, and the standard little cup of pure maple syrup. Yes, very delicious, and a bit novel with the chopped strawberries and caramel drizzle. And a really big dish of butter. Disturbingly big, far too much butter for what was otherwise a very well-proportioned combination of culinary accoutrements.

That’s because this wasn’t butter.

It was fucking ice cream. Vanilla fucking ice cream.

What?! Vanilla ice cream with French Toast?


Too indulgent? Too sugar-snack-attacky?

No. No, it was perfect. And I kept it in that side dish, mixed it, taste by taste, with each bite of the main entrée. And there it was, a new French Toast sensation for someone who has internally cataloged maybe a hundred variants.

A renewal of happiness. A cause to reflect on this, share it with those of you who love this meal, and share it with those of us who might wonder if we lost the love when we lost the person.

Well, we didn’t. We did not lose that love, and we never will. You know that.

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