In the USA, November 28 marks “French Toast Day.”
But, it wasn’t the French who invented it, instead according to a collection of recipes from the early 5th century AD, the dish we now know as French toast existed as early as the age of the Roman Empire. In their style of French toast, called Pan Dulcis, Romans would soak bread in a milk and egg mixture, then fry it in oil or butter.
Others believe that French toast was created by medieval European cooks who needed to use every bit of food they could find to feed their families. They knew day-old bread could be revived when moistened and heated. They added the eggs for additional moisture and protein.
The phrase “French Toast” first appeared in print in the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink in 1871. But it is known by a variety of names including German toast, eggy bread, French-fried bread, gypsy toast, Poor Knights of Windsor, Spanish toast, nun’s toast, and pain perdu which means “lost bread” in French.
In Germany, the recipe for arme ritter, meaning “poor knights”, is said to date back to the 14th century. Around the same time, Taillevent, a cook in the kitchens of the French court and author of Le Viandier, the most influential French cookery book from the Middle Ages, presented a recipe for tostées dorées, or “golden toasts”. While it indicates to use “hard bread” and to coat it in egg before frying it in a pan, Taillevent’s recipe doesn’t include milk.
A popular yet rather farfetched myth is that French toast actually originates from America. In 1724, a chef called Joseph French supposedly came up with the recipe, but failed to spell the name of the dish properly and forgetting the apostrophe, he named them “French toast”, instead of “French’s toast”.