In elementary school, breakfast and I always went head to head.
I didn't like eggs because of the yolk, or oatmeal because of the texture. Sugary cereal was never allowed in my household. Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Frosted Flakes, Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs and so on never lived on our shelves. We only had unexciting options like Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds, Cheerios, Mini Wheats, or Kashi. And every child's nightmare...the dreaded Raisin Bran.
I don't have very many memories of breakfast before school but I have faint glimpses of gulping down plain key lime yogurt (sans granola) and suffering through cooked egg whites and hoisin sauce in the dark hours of the morning. But, more often than not, I remember eating leftovers for breakfast. These were often Chinese leftovers. Rice and ___insert Chinese dish here___.
I was always a little bit embarrassed to admit that I ate leftovers for breakfast until I all together stopped eating leftovers for breakfast because I realized no one else did that. I have this distinct memory of walking uphill after elementary school to our pick-up place with a friend. We are discussing breakfast and what we had that morning. My friend shares that she had Captain Crunch and inquires what I had. I freeze in that moment and try to quickly collect my thoughts. Do I tell her I had rice with beef and broccoli or do I tell her I had cereal too? This was a huge decision for an 8 year old. It was the dilemma of being judged for eating a weird breakfast or for fibbing about a breakfast that I did not in fact eat that morning.
"Cheerios", I reply rather hesitantly, the guilt seeping into me like a sponge soaks up water.
From that point on, I stuck to the unexciting cereal options or the yogurt again because no matter what, I had to eat breakfast for my stomach's sake. I'm still the type of person who is usually starving in the morning. I'm not able to make it to lunch without eating some sort of breakfast.
Weekends were a different story and with more options. Sometimes my mom made her yeasted waffles. On Christmas morning, we'd get waffles and lil' smokies. Boy, was that a treat. But mostly, it was my dad who made breakfast on the weekend. Of course they were things Kristen and I never appreciated because they usually involved eggs and the terrifying runny yolk. My dad liked to make kids' breakfasts like pigs in a blanket, eggs in a basket, and french toast. I still think he makes the best eggs out of anyone I know.
Like the sugary cereal, the french toast was not those processed french toast sticks that came out of a box. I longed for those whenever the kids in school would talk about their "cool" breakfasts that came in pre-cut shapes and bright unnatural colors. My dad's french toast was simple and used up leftover sliced sourdough bread from Costco. My favorite part was eating the center parts of that french toast. I'd suffer through that extra chewy crust just to get to the soft center saturated in syrup.
I recently had the opportunity to take home some leftover challah bread from work. On my commute home, the mouthwatering smell lead me to remember french toast and my childhood desire for it to be in that soft, stick-shaped form. The great think about challah is that it barely has a crust and is an incredibly soft, eggy bread. A perfect choice for french toast.
Start by cutting the challah into 1-inch thick sticks and about 3 inches long. Create the custard by thoroughly mixing together 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.
Soak the pieces in the egg custard until coated on all sides. Fry in a non-stick skillet for about 2 minutes each side or until golden brown.
Continue in batches until all pieces are cooked. Cool pieces on a cooling rack and serve immediately.
French toast is one of those foods that always smells the same no matter where it is made or whom it is made by.
It's easier than pancakes or waffles and just as delicious.
With real maple syrup of course!
French Toast Sticks
Yields: 4 servings // Total Time: 30 minutes