International breakfasts

Hey Doug! It's good to be back. Here's something I need to know: If I go out to breakfast in Canada, would they offer me American bacon? In Paris, what will I get if I order toast?

A: I'm glad I already had lunch, or I'd have to grab a snack before typing anything else.

Canada is blessed with three regularly available types of bacon: side bacon (what Americans think of as bacon), back bacon, and "peameal" bacon, the last two often referred to as "Canadian bacon" in the US and Ireland. Back bacon is a leaner cut of pork than side bacon, smoked or unsmoked, and peameal bacon (so called because it was traditionally rolled in crushed dried peas) is back bacon that has been brined and rolled in cornmeal. Canadian bacon can also refer to smoked ham, served in small cutlets.

As for ordering toast in France, you would most likely be served a sliced baguette, served hot and crusty, with butter and jam. You could probably request slices of bread from whatever loaves they had available, but the British or American toasted squares would not be a default choice in Paris.

Incidentally, for those who wonder about such things, French Toast is indeed French. It was likely invented in what is now France more than a thousand years ago, and maybe much earlier than that. Recipes from a 4th century Roman collection of French recipes describe how to make French Toast, called, among other things, pan dulcis or "sweet bread" by the Roman citizenry. The dish is still eaten in France as a dessert (not breakfast) called pain perdu or "lost bread", since it was originally designed to reclaim bread that had become too stale to eat. Assuming being stale was the only thing wrong with the bread, it was softened by a mix of eggs and dairy products, then fried before eating. Apart from regional differences in preparation - some like it sweet, with cinnamon and sugar, others like it savory, with cheese or tomato sauces - this is the same way we make it today.

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