Coming home from school when we were growing up in England was, for me, like hitting base camp after climbing Mt. Everest. Of five siblings, I was the one to be sent far from home each day to an English Catholic school. The others went to the American school on the airbase. When I asked my mother why she sent me far afield she shrugged and said, “I don’t know.”
Journey in the Dark
At any rate, my journey each day began in the dark with a walk to the school bus where I climbed aboard, the only American. We jolted down winding country roads, through villages and towns until the bus stopped before a collection of charming stone buildings which was the school in the town of Swaffham. There, we clambered off to meet our destiny.
Horrifying First Day
My first day there was, like so many other first days in the life of a military child’s school career, horrifying. This one is distinguished in my memory by one phrase, uttered stern and low by our headmaster, “Oh…a cousin from across the sea…” when I responded with my name. From that moment on he hated me. I don’t remember how long I attended that particular school, one of thirteen in my educational career, nor do I remember making friends there though it isn’t in the least an unpleasant memory.
Cinnamon Toast Saved Me
One reason for that revolves around cinnamon toast. The thing is, while my journey to school was at least an hour on the bus, it was much longer on the way home, for reasons again unknown. All I know is that I had to get on a bus, get off a bus, wait for a long time, get on another bus which deposited me at the military base run by my father, where I walked to his office and sat in a chair while he finished his workday. I was usually starving, and all the poor man unaccustomed to the mid-afternoon starvation of a child had in his desk drawer were Jack Lalane biscuits which, after eating one I refused thereafter.
Crispy, Crackly, Sweet, Salty
By the time we got home I was faint. My mother was ready for me (no doubt fueled by guilt at my long and cold journey), always with a delectable little snack which, even though dinner was nigh, I was served immediately. My mother was the queen of weird snacks (melted marshmallow and walnuts atop saltines, strawberry jelly and cream cheese on soft bread, olives and cream cheese on whole wheat crackers), cinnamon toast was her most normal and my favorite. Crispy, crackly, sweet, salty, I just loved it.
Success – I Made It!
For years I tried to recreate it without real success, then it fell into the annals of memory until recently. At 100, my mother is a lively personage with her memory intact, her sense of humor at the ready. We zoom regularly, and I asked her about her cinnamon toast. “Oh I used to love that,” She said and proceeded to tell me how to make it. I did and Oh! Oh! Success. But I now see why I didn’t succeed when my children were little. It is mostly sugar, and I was too much a product of my generation to give my kids that much in one go.
What’s a Little Sugar?
Today? Well, I’d serve it as a treat from time to time, which I will be sure to do during the holidays. I counsel you the same. Whatever you do, you must try it. You don’t have to make it every day, but for those special Sunday brunches or an after-school treat when its pouring rain outside and the skies are grey, this cinnamon toast will bring all the goodness of the world inside.
- 4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup (100g) vanilla sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon preferably from Saigon
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 slices thin-sliced bread
- Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
- Place all of the ingredients except the bread in a small bowl and mix very well.
- Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until they are golden.
- Flip the bread, spread it with the cinnamon butter, going right out to the edges, and return to the oven. Toast until the cinnamon butter is bubbly, which will take 5 to 8 minutes, checking on it at least once.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for several minutes, as it is blistering hot right out of the oven.