Happy Birthday French Toast


You may be aware of my family’s history of birthday pancakes.  For many years of my life my mother greeted us on the morning of my birthday with a plate of scrambled eggs and a pancake in the shape of our first name’s initial.  A candle would cast a warm glow as she poured the syrup over the meal and sang “Happy Birthday”.

It was quaint and despite my better judgment, I tried to keep this tradition alive.  So for 18 years or more I’ve made a big letter with a candle in it.  The kids seem to like it and I have fun doing it.

But every artist has his or her own medium and while my mother can use pancake batter and a hot griddle with skill and grace, I prefer the structural integrity and earthy charm of French Toast.  With a sharp knife and some crusty bread, I could carve a breakfast version of Michelangelo’s “David”.

In years past I’ve worked hard to produce an “E”, “J” or “B” with flourish and panache but despite my best attempts, I’ve felt that my end product was lacking a certain quality.  This year I stepped up my game.  After hours of rough drafts and quick attempts, I completed my daughter’s entire name.

My daughter awoke to a table set with coffee, orange juice, and a plate full of delicate, crispy, perfectly cooked toast with a small candle in the center casting a warm glow.  A small tear formed in her eye as I sang “Happy Birthday” and placed a small kiss on her forehead.  (Okay, I made up that last part.)

I assume that one or more of my children will try to carry on the family tradition and believe that they will find their own style and tools.  My grandchildren will awake to some sugary carbohydrate on a plate in the form of a letter.  A small burning wax stick will poke out of the food and someone will sing a 100 year old song and the child will blow, eat breakfast, and leave for school.

It is nice to know that some things never change.