French Toast "Pour Un"
Drema Sizemore Drudge
All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward. ~Ellen Glasgow
My first memory of eating is diving into pancakes on a Saturday morning just before I turned three, my fatherīs thick peasant pancakes that I will adore for the rest of my life; I bemoaned the loss of his pancakes almost as the loss of my ability to understand his speech when he got Parkinsonīs a few years ago. For some reason, my mother never ate breakfast, but my father made it for my siblings and me every day, and it is strongly twinned with love in my mind. Needless to say, breakfast is important to me.
On the morning after my husband Barry and I returned from our brief honeymoon, I woke early, eager to settle more fully into my new home, mentally weeding his annoyingly large LP album collection, plotting how to get a new couch and soon, and imagining a row of herbs, basil and chives, on the gorgeous antique windowsill of the cozy bricked kitchen.
After quietly slipping out of bed so as to not disturb my weary husband, a word that still made me giggle as it had at the hotel where I had first said it to the front desk, I ventured into the kitchen. I couldnīt wait to begin our new life together, even if I started it alone. Heīd wake up soon enough.
Everyone had remarked on our return last night about the radiant glow my normally shy face contained. I checked in the chrome of the microwave door handle. Yes, they were right, I thought, as I tried to get my cheek muscles to relax from their constant grinning.
Though Barry liked my cooking, I had never made him breakfast. He had shocked me early in our relationship by confessing that he did not like breakfast, and in fact never ate it. He seemed slightly disgusted that I enjoyed breakfast. But like his reluctance to exercise that I had overcome with my charming persistence and crafty encouragement ("Your arms are made for working out. Look at how easily your bicep pops."), I was sure I could take on his resistance to breakfast. Didnīt doctors say it was the most important meal of the day? I would be doing him a favor if I could convince him to eat it.
Getting back so late the night before had meant we werenīt able to stock his -- our -- pantry. I opened cupboard after cupboard, only to find the remnants of spontaneous feasts, dishes my husband had become temporarily infatuated with making, and obscure spices I couldnīt imagine him finding in our small town. I was impressed with his creativity, and I greedily "read" each clue to this man I had newly married. We knew and loved one another much, but I longed to learn everything there was to know about him. Of course he hadnīt thought to show me the crumbed recesses of his cabinets, the nooks that now spoke volumes. I would have these straightened up in no time. There was a woman in the house now.
I enjoy a gourmet dish as much as -- if not more than -- anyone, but I am a staunch believer that breakfast should be simple and unpretentious. Though I couldnīt bear to make my fatherīs pancakes on this first real day in my new home, knowing that my having left my parentīs home, such a bittersweet experience, necessarily meant we would not meet on the same breakfast field again, I was determined to make a wholesome breakfast for myself and my husband.
I discovered a bag of hamburger buns in the freezer. Those, paired with two eggs only two days out of date lurking in the unstocked refrigerator did it: I would make French toast, even without vanilla for my homemade syrup. (How was it that Barry had saffron but no vanilla?) My mind was ripe with questions for him, and I could hardly bear to wait for him to get up. Maybe the scent of browning butter would do the trick! Unfortunately the scent only fetched the cat, a Siamese that didnīt like me -- my mother had an almost superstitious fear of cats and I had never quite reconciled to having one around whenever I visited Barryīs apartment. Thankfully, he was only watching Smoky until his mother returned to Indiana in another month.
Smoky watched me from the kitchen table; I was too afraid to tell him to get down. His huge eyes seemed to glow, to accuse me of being an intruder in this room, and I almost agreed. I felt foreign cooking in this room, with equipment I wasnīt used to using. Any cooking I had done for Barry previous to this had been in my college residence hallīs kitchen.
As I added more butter to the copper clad skillet I glared at it, determining to buy some new cookware, some that didnīt require hours to maintain and shine; I thought of how to present the toast to Barry. I wasnīt sure enough of myself to bring him breakfast in bed, and the idea of it had always seemed rather untidy anyway. What if I spilled orange juice on the bed? No thanks.
I put the toast in the oven to warm, very aware of its fragile state, eager to cut into its cinnamon depths and drizzle it with my dadīs syrup recipe, thinned a bit to suit my taste, though I felt guilty about the alteration. Already things were changing. Before I would never have dared change his recipe!
Since I had eaten hardly any carbs in the month before the wedding to fit into my dress, I was ready to eat. Poking my head around the bedroom door, I coughed lightly. No response. Smoky jumped onto the bed and caused Barry to start.
"Whatīs up?" he asked.
"Hi," I said, feeling my cheeks tighten into a smile again. "I made you breakfast."
"Youīre so sweet," he said, smiling tenderly, "but remember, I donīt eat breakfast."
"Oh," I said, my cheeks becoming slack. His eyes were already closed again, and soon he began lightly snoring.
I went back to the kitchen, followed by Smoky who immediately hopped back on the table. I prepared a plate for myself and shooed the cat away so I could eat my breakfast in peace. As I ate, I realized trying to change Barry, even in such an apparently small way, was not love but hubris -- I believed my way was the only way.
After twenty-plus years of marriage I sometimes forget that lesson when he and I donīt agree. Though I have on occasion convinced my husband to eat breakfast, usually it is a time of quiet and reflection for me. It no longer bothers me that he doesnīt like breakfast, and it doesnīt bother him that I do.