We often think that having something delicious to eat is dependent upon what’s in your wallet. However, as noted by many modern chefs, many of the dishes popular in restaurants today are actually made from quite inexpensive ingredients and borrow from dishes made by the poor. (Keep that in mind next time you’re paying thirty dollars for a bowl of gumbo.) French toast or pain perdu actually means lost bread, meaning bread from last night that was stale by the morning. (If you’re making soggy French toast with loaf bread, stop! Buy a loaf of French bread and make pain perdu with the leftovers the next day. You’ll never go back.)
Another example from French cuisine is onion soup or soupe à l’oignon. While we might think of French onion soup as a delicacy, it is actually food made by the poor when there was little in the cupboard but onion (garlic if you like and I do), butter, beef broth, stale bread, and some cheese (Gruyères, which is a little pricey, so substitute Swiss or provolone). If you have a little cognac lying around, it’s a nice option, but I usually dose it with a little red wine. The total (without the cognac) at the grocery cashier today will probably be around five bucks. Not bad for a meal, really. We had ours with a salad made from spinach, sautéed mushrooms and tomato, with a balsamic vinaigrette. Délicieux! No one cooks French like Julia Child. Check out the Julia Child The French Chef page on the PBS website. Bon appétit!