I’ve been a bit flat lately. I’ve been feeling like crap, physically ill, on and off, for months now, and really can’t work out why. Actually, it may be years, not months, if I’m being honest. There’s a lot going on, both mentally and physically, and on the physical side I’m being tested for gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, iron, vitamin D, thyroid, etc stuff. Mentally & emotionally is a bit more complicated. I think one of the contributing factors is missing my grandmother.
It still feels weird to talk about her in the past tense, that she doesn’t “exist” anymore. I don’t like writing that she “was” a big part of my life; she still is. She helped raise me as a child. She taught me to knit and hand stitch in her sewing room. She taught me to pick out good produce at the market, and then to cook it like a pro. She made outfit after outfit for me, including my deb (debutant ball) dress. And the veil I wore on my wedding day. She gave me crap for my ripped jeans, asking if they needed mending, and telling me that wearing them wasn’t cool. She always started phone conversations by asking if I’d eaten (no, it’s not some Italian joke, she legit asked every time), and how Marley, my dog, was going. After she’d told me off for not answering my phone earlier in the day (Sorry Nonna, I’ve been at work. “Why?!” was her response, most of the time – I could never tell if she was serious or just taking the piss).
Anyway, I live with a teacher, and as such I now observe the comings and goings of the school terms. I guess my dis-ease came to a boiling point this week, because when husband told me he was totally ready for school holidays, the most random thing happened. A memory filled my head and took over for a second, like one of those crazy movie flashbacks… I was a primary school aged kid again, at Nonna’s house – I’d usually stay at her house a few nights every school holidays, so we could just hang out together and do stuff that mum wouldn’t let me do. I was sitting at the bench in the kitchen, on the wooden stool you can see in the picture below, where we had breakfast together, watching her cook French toast for us. And I felt my soul crack a little. It’s cracking again right now, as I type this.
Nonna would work SO intently at her little stove top, making sure our breakfast was just right. Everything had to be perfect for her grand children, especially the food. Our favourite breakfast was French toast, made with thick, fresh Italian bread, cooked in an absolutely ludicrous amount of butter, with more than a sprinkle of salt. It was always perfectly crispy and golden without ever burning. She was a master, really.
Anyway, I’ve been told to load up on gluten before being tested, so screw it – last weekend it was French toast for breakfast! Yes, it’s indulgent, and no, it’s not going to benefit you to eat this regularly. But sometimes when your soul is crying out for a hug, comfort food is where it’s at. Here’s my best attempt to re-create Nonna’s French toast.
It was pretty simple – a few eggs and milk whisked together, dip the bread in (I went a la Nonna and used a loaf of Italian bread, bought from the Preston market, sliced myself with the crusts removed – stop judging me) and fry up on a non-stick pan containing a small ocean of butter. And yes, I added some fruit to try to justify all of the butter and carbs. I also went on a really freakin long 15km walk after I ate this!!! It also cheered me up a bit, and goodness knows I needed it. If you need a pick me up too this weekend, whip yourself up a plate of this buttery deliciousness this weekend – trust Nonna Gemma, it’ll make you happy!