My favorite memories with dad were of early mornings. As a child, each day began at 5am. With the sky still dark and the sun hiding – I rose early to join my dad. My dad prized his morning ritual as a calm retreat from the otherwise hectic workday. Meanwhile, I relished the chance to enjoy dad’s company before school.
Our day started with a coarse loaf of French bread on the kitchen counter.
After my dad carved the baguette, I gathered the slices into the toaster oven. I turned the crisping dial with eager anticipation. As we waited, my dad mixed himself coffee with instant creamer and sugar. He then poured me a cup of condensed milk thinned with hot water. The cups warmed our hands and bodies. The smell of coffee, condensed milk and bread wafted through the air. It was and remains an unforgettable scent of home.
The toaster oven dings. My dad removes the hot slices, places them on our kitchen table. Sharing the bread, we sat in silence, dipping the toast into our warm morning cups. A strong coffee for dad, and condensed milk watered down for me.
We learned from routine that this bread took liquid in a precarious way. Sometimes, the bread acted in extremes: drenched and too moist, or charred burnt and unsalvageable. Other times, the baguette went moldy, and had to be thrown out. Yet, thankfully, most of the time the toast was edible. My dad and I were not discouraged. We continued to chase after the ideal way to prepare our morning treat.
We enjoyed the game of delicate balance. A successful dipped toast was one neither too tough nor soggy. We went through trial and error over the years until we found the perfect technique for our bread dipping tradition.
My dad and I would over-toast our bread with a plan. Dunking the slice at a slight 45 degree angle helped ensure the right combination of wet and dry. Removed from the cup, having absorbed just enough liquid, our morning snack was ready to eat. As we bit into the oval slices, we embraced the spongy soft texture of the soaked part. Each bite released a damp sweetness borrowed from our beverages. Then came the last bite. We rejoiced at reaching the slice’s handle. The crunch of the dry portions pleased our ears – crisp and delicious.
My dad and I shared a smile over our coffee, condensed milk and dipped toast. No words necessary to express the taste of satisfaction.