Column Chronicles
The race for sovereign toast
Frank Cotolo
February 8, 2024
A new book by an old author is ratling the kitchens of history. Jonathan Dern's Universal Toast dares to reveal how nations violently competed to be the world's foremost breakfast dish.
"It began in the seventeen-hundreds," ninety-nine-year-old Dern said. "A cook in Paris was short on breakfast ingredients so he fried bread in an egg batter. When he served it a customer didn't know what was on the dish and the cook said it was toast and then said, "French Toast". The book chronicles how popular the item became.
"Within a month everyone in France was ordering the new concoction," Dern said. "Then things turned for the worse."
Someone shared the recipe with neighboring cooks in Spain and it became a rage in Lisbon only they it Spanish Toast. The recipe made its way across the sea to Tuscany and it surfaced in the Ottoman Empire within the year.
Dern said, "If you guess the recipe was claimed original anywhere it became popular you are correct."
Tuscany Toast, Bavarian Toast and so on had populations of countries ordering it daily. Some people did not like it but ate it to display national pride for an original breakfast meal.
"That's when it became ugly," Dern said. "Cooks everywhere in Europe swore it was created in their countries. Violence broke out."
The book chronicles France's invasion of Spain, led by the son of the original French Toast cook whom the king supported. A militia was formed. It created The Toast Crusades, a movement to pound the sense into breakfast customers in other countries that the adored dish was French Toast and no other name.
"It's estimated thousands died," Dern said, "before the Toast Crusades ended and the population of Europe was forced to call the dish French Toast or face a firing squad."
Dern spent twenty years researching before writing the book. "I hope it was all worth it," he said. "If only for people to realize. Something or other."
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