The History of French Toast


Challah French Toast

The popular history behind French toast (aka German toast, American toast, Spanish toast) is that it was was created by medieval European cooks who needed to use every bit of food they could find to feed their families. They knew old, stale bread (French term *pain perdu* literally means *lost bread*) could be revived when moistened and heated. Cooks would have added eggs for additional moisture and protein. Medieval recipes for “french toast” also suggest this meal was enjoyed by the wealthy. Cook books at this time were written by and for the wealthy. These recipes used white bread (the very finest, most expensive bread available at the time) with the crusts cut off, something a poor, hungry person would be unlikely to do.

Actually, recipes for “french toast” can be traced Ancient Roman times. One of the original French names for this dish is pain a la Romaine’, or Roman bread.

“This dish does have its origins in France, where it is known as “ameritte” or *pain perdu* (“lost bread”), a term that has persisted, in Creole and Cajun cookery; in Spain it is called “torriga” and in England “Poor Knights of Windsor,” which is the same name for the dish in Denmark, “arme riddere,” and Germany, “arme ritter.” At one time or another in America it has been referred to as “Spanish,” “German,” or “nun’s toast,” and its first appearance in print as “French Toast” was in 1871. ”
—The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani

“French toast is a dish we have borrowed from the French, who call it pain perdu’, or lost bread…It is known in England as the poor knights of Windsor, which is the same phrase used in many countries: fattiga riddare’ in Sweden; ‘arme ridder’ in Danish; and armer ritter’ in German. One theory about how the latter name came about goes as follows: In olden times, one of the symbols of distinction between the gentry and the common herd was that the former were expected to serve dessert at dinner. Knights, of course, were gentry. But not all of them were rich. Those who were not, in order to maintain their status, made do with armer ritter’, often served with jam.”
—Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Food Encyclopedia, Craig Claiborne

A Short History of French Cuisine

By Sherril Steele-Carlin

Surprisingly, it was the Italians who were the ones who had the most influence on French cuisine, for a number of reasons. In 15th century Renaissance Europe, food was becoming much more significant than a simple meal.

Art, literature, and education were thriving, and so was a great interest in first-class food and drink. Wealthy Italians in Florence raised food to a higher norm, by using fresh ingredients and creating astonishing dishes, like layered pasta dishes (lasagna, manicotti, etc.), soups, breads, and desserts. They had learned how to keep food fresher, too, so that helped food remain tasty longer. They also started using ingredients like truffles, garlic, and mushrooms in their dishes.

The Medici’s

All of this originality made its way to France through the famous Medici family. Catherine de Medici married France’s King Henry II in the mid-sixteenth century, and brought her food ideas to the French court. Later, another Medici married another French king, and the food just kept coming. As a result, dining in France became increasingly significant. Like the Italians, the French liked to embellish their tables with fine china, glassware, and serving ware. Dinner, said one critic, became “theater” in France, and it has remained a highlight of French culture and society.


Don’t Forget the Wine

Wine is an essential part of French dining, and it is paired to match the food that is served. During an elaborate French meal the wine is paired to each course. A light, bubbly Champagne may improve the first course. A dry white may go with the soup, and a hearty red might pair with the main course. A light, sweet dessert wine might go together with the dessert or cheese plate.  The French are masters of combining foods with wine, and it is an essential part of their meals.

Read more of the history at:

Click the following link for MCCN’s review of the French bistro of acclaimed Chef Cindy Wolf: Petit Louis Bistro in Baltimore, MD.

French Bakery: Bonaparte at Baltimore’s Fells Point

Apricot Blueberry tart

We made Bonaparte Breads and Cafe one of our East Coast Pit-stops inBaltimore as we gather sound “bites” about food.  We have it on good authority from our local Baltimore food critic, Monica Johnson and field producer of this webisode that the food is delish! From quiche, desserts to fresh baked breads by a French baker, the restaurant faces the inner harbor what more could you ask for. Take a gander at the foods and hear what the manager says they are serving.

Located at: 903 South Ann Street, Fells Point


(Dexter Nixon puts mic on the Bakery Manager

A Brief History of Haitian Cuisine-A True Multi-cultural Experience (by Monica Johnson)

Freshly caught fish served on a leaf.

Freshly caught fish served on a leaf.

Looking for African influences in the Caribbean? Look no further than Haiti, where most of the population is of African descent. When the first Europeans came to settle in the land of the Arawak and Taino Indians, they brought oranges, limes, mangoes, rice, and sugar cane with them, but that’s not all they brought. They also brought African slaves and left them to work the sugar cane plantations.

“How did this come about?” you may ask. Well if you recall there was a man named Christopher Columbus who had a little something to do with the history of the Americas. Remember how Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, well guess where else he landed? Quite the busy little beaver, the explorer discovered the already inhabited land and claimed it for Spain. Spain called it Santo Domingo, but Columbus named it La Isla Espanola (The Spanish Island later to be called Hispaniola).  By the year 1520, the native Indians were almost completely wiped out from the hard slave labor the Spanish imposed  upon them and the revolts of the people leading to executions by the Spaniards. Sadly the Taino’s have no tangible legacy in the form of an existing people in Haiti; therefore, Africans were shipped over to the island to work on the sugar cane plantations.

The Africans introduced okra, ackee (red and yellow fruit), pigeon peas, taro (edible root with a nutty flavor). By the year 1700, the French had taken control of Hispaniola and with the African slave labor still in place, they expanded their commerce to include coffee, cotton, and cocoa. Haiti went on to win their own independence in 1804 becoming the first African-American led republic in the New World.

Haiti, originally  named by Taino Indians for its high ground, shares  Hispaniola with their spanish-speaking neighbor, the Dominican Republic. Occupying just the western third part of the island, Haiti still remains highly influenced by the French in its language, culture, and food. French cheeses, breads, and desserts have been integrated into the Haitian lifestyle. Haiti’s cuisine is often considered French or Creole; however the Spanish, African, and French influence make for a smorgasbord of flavor and a truly historical and  multi-cultural experience.

The difference between Haitian and other Caribbean cuisine in a word: Peppery

Method of cooking: Often slow coked and wrapped in banana or plantains and leaves for several hours. An African method of cooking is still employed today, using coals and placing them in a hollowed-out area of the ground. The food is then placed atop the coals with the leaves covering it for ultimate slow cooking results.

Try this at home: In the mood for a Haitian creole specialty, click here for a recipe for Haitian griot (fried pork).

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Mediterranean & French: Canele Restaurant in Atwter Village, CA








Without realizing the back-story of Canele restaurant, I kept saying to my dining companion Leo that this restaurant reminds of a Manhattan neighborhood joint.  Low and behold, the New Yorker in me instincts were right.  Upon reading the Canele website bio of general manager Jane Choi, I learn of her history as the manager of Boutique Bistro Balthezar in New York.  It is Choi’s desire to the create the atmosphere of the Big Apple and she succeeds.

See the rest of the review by Los Angeles Examiner Restaurant Reviewer & MCCN CEO, Crystal Johnson listed below.–Soul-Food-Restaurant-Examiner~y2009m8d10-Canele-Restaurant-in-Atwater-Village-Brings-the-New-York-Dining-Experience-to-LA?cid=exrss-LA-Comfort–Soul-Food-Restaurant-Examiner