Proof that you can cook up a great story out of just about anything — even French Toast!
I've been making French Toast breakfasts for the past 32 years. Whenever we have a family get-together, everyone knows, 1, it's a special occasion, 2, it's going to be delicious, and 3, I'm in charge.
I've really got it down to a fine art — the result of years and years of experimentation and refinement of both the recipe, as well as the process. Egg, milk, and a touch of vanilla extract. The bread you use is important — it's got to be Jewish Challah — egg bread.
One of the other secrets of deliciousness is how I soak the bread in the mixture ... I poke holes in the bread with a fork before dipping it in, and then I make a pile of soaked slices just to let them fully absorb all that egg-milk goodness.
Then, I set the pile aside for several minutes... while I heat up a cast-iron skillet that's big enough to cover two burners on the stove. now... the slices at the bottom of the stack can get a little soggy, so when I'm ready to start grilling, I flip the stack of soaked slices over in order to start from the ones that were soaking the longest — keeps the bottom ones from getting too soggy, and that gives the slices that were on the top, a chance to soak in a bit more.
I warm up the maple syrup — real maple syrup — and I slice up a banana or two as well as other fresh fruit... break up pecans in a small bowl for people to sprinkle to taste.
So I need three deep bowls for this entire operation. One to make the batter and soak the slices in. One to stack the soaked slices and let them fully absorb the batter. And finally, one to pile up the golden brown finished French toast and keep it all warm until everything's ready to serve.
Now it's not a big deal, but I always struggle with where to place and how to organize the bowls. I mean... you need counter space. It wasn't really a problem... I just accepted it as, well, part of the process.
Last week, the family came over and I happened to have a large baking dish on the counter. I had used it the day before to make granola and I just hadn't put it away. I looked at the baking dish, and I had an idea... What if I mix up the batter in that baking dish, and put something under one end of it so that it's slightly tilted up.
So I tried that...
The batter all flowed to the lower end of the baking dish, where I did the usual fork poking and soaking. And there was plenty of room at the raised end of the dish where I could stack the soaked slices. Any batter that didn't get absorbed flowed back into the lower end of the dish.
Perfect! The slices were all more evenly soaked. It eliminated 1 bowl. No, I actually eliminated 2 bowls... because I was able to use the baking dish to hold the finished French toast as well, (after rinsing it of course, because you don't want to mix cooked and uncooked foods for food safety reasons!)
I was really pleased with myself!
After 32 years, I continue to find ways to innovate and improve something as seemingly simple, like French toast.
Even more importantly, I learned three big lessons from this little French toast experience.
First, well, you know how they say that how you one thing is how you do everything? That's true. It's just my nature to tinker. Doing one thing the same way over and over again just bores me. That's just a part of who I am. It's how I approach everything in life; I'm constantly looking for ways to innovate.
The second thing I learned was, that no matter how well you think you know something; no matter how much of an expert you think you are, there's always something new to learn; always some tweak that will result in an improvement.
Third, well, isn't this a reflection of the evolution of our entire civilization? I mean, there's always somebody who finds a solution to a problem we didn't even know we had! That's the very definition of innovation. And that's happening day in and day out in every conceivable endeavour. That's how human beings are wired, and that's pretty cool.
Oh, and I learned one more thing — that you can cook up a great story out of just about anything — even French Toast.