Rise and Shine: Part I

French Toast 5The majority of the recipes on this blog have a dinner and/or dessert connotation – sadly, there is little to no representation of my favorite meal: breakfast. It is the only time of day that encourages both creative ingredients and caloric liberties. Breakfast can make or break your day, depending on how “scrambled” you feel once you walk out the door. As such, I’ve decided to introduce a new series on this blog called “Rise and Shine” – these posts will showcase morning favorites, and natural light is the BEST lighting for foodie photos…so this series is a total win-win. Last weekend I was in NYC for Valentine’s Day, and rather than risk the crowds/drama at local restaurants, Tom and I spent the weekend cooking at home. We ended up making some great meals, including this Whole Wheat French Toast with Bananas Foster.
French Toast 4French Toast is a breakfast icon, and thankfully it’s a cinch to make. The history of this dish is somewhat nebulous, though it finds an affinity with recipes dating all the way back to the 4th century (only the most delicious recipes stand the test of time). It was and still is a great solution for using up stale bread. You basically soak individual slices of day-old bread in an egg & cream mixture, then frying the bread until browned and cooked through. It creates the perfect canvas for any number of toppings, from maple syrup to fresh fruit. We sadly had grabbed a bad batch of raspberries (hate when that happens!) and had to ditch almost the entire crate. The weather outside was discouraging, but we needed a new plan…
French Toast 3Tom decided to brave the wintery slush to grab a few bananas from the corner store. He had some rum in the apartment, which led to my suggesting bananas foster…and Jamaican coffees, which were stellar. Bananas foster is fairly simple, and though I personally believe that the flambé makes all the difference it is optional: you can safely add the rum and allow it to cook down for a few minutes with a simmer alone (and avoid the concern of setting fire to your kitchen). Right towards the end, Tom suggested adding the few raspberries we had salvaged, and it gave the dish a nice Valentine’s Day touch 🙂 I drizzled some clover honey over the plated slices of toast and foster, and the result was…well, I’ll let the photos do the talking. Click HERE for a sweet recipe to start your day!
French Toast 1Have you ever eaten a meal with others in total silence? Granted…there are times when this implies an extremely tense situation (as I imagine celebrity family dinners in the wake of a PR scandal must be), but silence is more often than not an indication of a delicious meal. Once we started eating the French toast, very few words were exchanged. The ability to appreciate without disruption – whether it be food or music – allows you to more fully experience that which you are enjoying. There honestly should be no need for words. This led to my choosing Felix Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words (Lieder ohne Worte): a collection of short solo piano pieces, written between 1829 and 1845. Much the way that the foodie photos above speak for themselves, Mendelssohn was adamant that these works needed no written clarification – he felt the musical messages were far clearer than any program notes could express. The following statement captures his thoughts exactly:

People often complain that music is too ambiguous, that what they should think when they hear it is so unclear, whereas everyone understands words. With me, it is exactly the opposite, and not only with regard to an entire speech but also with individual words. These, too, seem to me so ambiguous, so vague, so easily misunderstood in comparison to genuine music, which fills the soul with a thousand things better than words. The thoughts which are expressed to me by music that I love are not too indefinite to be put into words, but on the contrary, too definite.

While some might believe this is a matter-of-course statement for classical composers, his music fully supports the sentiment. The pieces in this collection aren’t overly complicated – in fact, many find them lacking in technical dexterity and difficult to interpret as a consequence. Their subtle melodies come across as spoken dialogue, with gentle harmonies that neither overpower the music nor overwhelm the listener. The music’s message is clear and quite literally needs no words. The below recording is the full collection with pianist Daniel Barenboim (this recording is over 2 hours in length…so feel free to listen in shifts). Enjoy!

Sources Cited: 
“French toast,” Wikipedia.com
“Songs without Words”, Wikipedia.com

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