There’s No French Toast in France

Yesterday we drove over 7 hours from Toulouse to Paris.

In California, this would be similar to driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, but in that journey you pass through several different biomes (desert, alluvial plain, chaparral, coastal mountains, etc).

In central France, for hundreds of miles in every direction as far as the eye can see, is a landscape of vineyards, orchards, tended green pastures amidst forests, and stone villages. It would be like taking the area around St. Helena in the Napa valley, and expanding it to the size of Northern California. It’s not that we don’t have vastness, but the vastness of genteel and gracious agriculture here is stunning.

In the van, one of the things we did to pass the time was whistle different tunes, since music (sans lyrics) is a universal language. It turns out the following songs, in particular, build a solid bridge across the language barrier.

Along the way, I called my family, who told me they were having French toast. When I got off the phone I announced this to Ivan and Marine. I got a blank stare. What is…French toast? They’d never even heard of it! I explained what it is, how we make it, and the fact that it’s on just about every breakfast menu in America. “Uh, yeah, we don’t eat…French toast.” We all laughed—but I knew I had to investigate this further.

Once we got to Paris I quickly realized that postcard Paris (all the stuff you see in travel shows) was in the center, and all around it was a metropolis of residential apartment towers and clogged freeways with graffiti-covered underpasses (all the stuff you don’t see in travel shows). In America, since we keep developing and building a city’s center, this is the opposite layout of an American city. Old Paris is like the center of a galaxy and its gravitas keeps the metropolis around it spinning.

I’m staying in a lovely little apartment in a house with a delightful French family. I’m not sure if I’m spelling their names properly: Françoise, Daniel, their five-year old son Paco, and three other boys who I don’t yet know by name. Last night I met them briefly before crashing hard. This morning I went downstairs, and Françoise made me breakfast.

I casually told Françoise that yesterday my family made French toast. Again, a blank stare of stupefaction. I explained what it was, and how to prepare it, even the powdered sugar bit! Nope. There’s no French toast in France! Unbelievable. I did not see this one coming. I mean, it’s one thing to not eat it, but to have never heard of it?! C’mon! It’s French toast! We fucking named it after you for chrissakes!

There’s a bakery like five steps from here. It opened at 7. At 7:01 Françoise stepped out and brought back a freshly baked croissant, chocolate croissant, and baguette—all warm from the oven. Exquisite. I ate it all. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d say the baguette with butter—it’s the simplicity of the bread combined with the decadence of the butter, and the texture and temperature interplay that makes it such a delight.

Paco came in and practiced his English by saying “Hello! I’m Paco!” and “Good morning!”

Daniel said that Paco woke him up this morning and whispered, “Papa, there’s an American in our house! And he’s just like us.”

Perhaps I should’ve said, “There is one way I’m different from you. I eat French toast.”

Today we’ll be at La Rubriques à Bulles dedicating books.

17h30 à 19h30 (I believe this means 5:30 to 7:30)
La Rubriques à Bulles
110 Bd Richard Lenoir
75011 Paris

A bientôt!