Every cook should have a simple recipe for French Toast. Sue was no different, so Bettina teaches this dish during Lesson 8 of When Sue Began to Cook. Today Sue makes French toast. This is the eighth in a series that covers the recipes and content of the 1924 book When Sue Began to Cook. Click the link to start at the beginning and you can follow Sue and her friend Ruth Ann as they learn their way around the kitchen.
Although French Toast seems simple, little changes in preparation method can alter the taste and texture. Altering ingredients can change the taste as well, of course. Generally when I make French Toast I use cinnamon. This recipe doesn’t do that. It uses sugar, but no cinnamon. It also begins with toasted bread, which I find unusual. I’m looking forward to giving this a try.
As always, Sue has something to say about the lesson. This is where we learn a bit more about Sue and Ruth Ann, and today Sue has something to say about another friend in her circle. Sue often reminds me of her mother Bettina. Bettina always had an opinion about everything.
Sue’s notes on the French Toast lesson
French Toast always looked to me as if it would be hard to make, so when Mother asked us if we wouldn’t like to have Jean over to lunch after our cooking lesson and let her try some of our own French Toast, I was quite surprised. “But will it really be good enough?” I wondered.
“Of course it will,” Mother said. “You and Jean and Ruth Ann may eat at the little table in the sunroom. You can have some cold meat and some creamed carrots besides the French Toast. And of course, you can have bread and jelly, and milk to drink.
Jean is the prettiest and most dashing friend I have (I said this before Father once and he laughed for fifteen minutes, but even so, it is true.) And we don’t always get along very well. Mother says it is because we both like to manage, and perhaps it is, but Ruth Ann never manages and she doesn’t get along with Jean either. Still, that may be because Ruth Ann is so shy. Jean isn’t shy at all.
Inviting Jean to lunch
I had mentioned our cooking lessons to Jean once or twice, and she seemed quite impressed though she always had something to answer about her own violin lessons or her French lessons. When I invited her this time, I said carelessly, “By the way, Jean, Ruth Ann and I are going to make French Toast tomorrow morning at our cooking lesson. Can’t you come over and eat lunch with us at twelve thirty? We’ll let you try some of it.”
“Are you really truly going to make it all alone?” Jean said. “Will you show me how? I know I could do anything Ruth Ann can do!”
“Ruth Ann has already learned to make creamed potatoes, and cocoa drop cookies and black walnut fudge and cinnamon cocoa,” I answered. “So I guess you’d have quite a hard time catching up with her now. And anyhow, you’re only invited to lunch and lunch isn’t till twelve thirty. We have our cooking lesson at ten.”
“As for that, Miss Sue,” said Jean, just as haughtily as I had spoken, “I have my French lesson at ten. So naturally I couldn’t get there at that time. But I’ll come to lunch if your mother really said you could invite me and if my mother will let me.”
I didn’t dare tell Ruth Ann about this conversation. Ruth Ann, even if she is my best friend, isn’t much braver than a rabbit. And if she knew Jean had spoken with contempt of her ability to cook, she’d probably burn her French toast so black nobody could eat it and that wasn’t my plan at all.
But everything went off beautifully. The French Toast looked perfectly grand if I do say it, and Mother let us set the little table with some of her prettiest dishes and the darling little baby fern in the center. And she didn’t let Robin bother us either. He had his lunch first and went off to Teddy’s to play.
Jean didn’t have much to say when we would ask her, “Won’t you try some of my French toast?” (It took all of Ruth Ann’s and mine, too.) But she seemed to like it. At least she ate a great deal and so did we.
Oh, it’s lots of fun to be really learning to cook, and to be inviting your own company to lunch to eat your own French toast! I guess Jean envied us all right, though wild horses couldn’t have made her say so!
Sue’s French Toast recipe
- 4 slices bread toasted evenly on both sides
- 1 egg
- ½ cup milk
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 Tbsp bacon fat
- Maple syrup to serve
- Mother had us take a wide shallow bowl, one large enough to hold a piece of toast. (I don't mean that we put the toast into it yet, though.) We broke one egg into our bowl and beat it up with the Dover egg beater. Then we added the milk, sugar and salt and kept on beating till they were all mixed. [If you don't have an old-fashioned egg beater, a whisk will work, too.]
- Then we put the bacon fat into a frying pan over the fire, and let it get steaming hot. Then we turned the fire low under it.
- We had already toasted the bread, and now Mother had us dip it into the egg mixture. We took each slice on a fork and dipped it carefully into the egg and then out again right into the hot frying pan. We let the toast get good and brown on the under side. Then we turned each slice over with a fork so that it could get brown on the other side too. In cooking it, we had to turn up the fire a little to make it hotter.
- I forgot to say that before we started dipping our toast, we cut it into three-cornered pieces so we each had eight pieces instead of four. [In other words, cut each piece of toast diagonally.] Mother told us not to leave it in the egg mixture very long or it would absorb too much and there wouldnt be enough egg to last. But as we did it, there was plenty.
- We helped the French Toast out onto our nice littl blue platters that were piping hot because they'd been standing in a warm place all the time, and there it was, all ready to serve with maple syrup from the big can.