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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

French Toast in Two Takes


File:Douvres (6).JPG

: photo by Remi Jouan, 2006

I...Dover Beach, or the Futility of Thought

The sea is calm to-night,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the Straits; -- on the French
Toast, the light
Syrup gleams but a moment,
And is gone
Down the hatch; for it is the light of France.
The cliffs of England stand
Made all of cardboard; a hand
Claps by itself. It gives itself a standing ovation.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into a his mind
A state of crashing ignorance.

File:Strait of dover STS106-718-28.jpg

Strait of Dover: satellite photo by NASA, 2004

File:France cap gris nez sb.jpg

Cape Gris Nez, French coast
: photo by Rolf Süssbrich, 2006

II...French Toast

I have not eaten French toast
In this century, but I remember
Eating French toast.
I get the idea
I am remembering
From a theory.
No, not a theory, a feeling.
A feeling
I experienced long,
Long ago, by the Aegean perhaps, or beneath
The white cliffs of Dover
As the moon
Lay fair.

When I remember reading Dover Beach,
By which I mean when I read
Dover Beach
In my mind, these days,
Which I sometimes do,
It's like that itch you can't scratch,
A memory passes across my mind like a shadow
And is gone, taking
Matthew Arnold,
His poem,
The history of English poetry,
The English language,
Greek tragedy,
The Aegean,
The Straits of Dover,
All the water
Between Cap Gris Nez
And Cap Finisterre
And me
And you, sleeping
In the room next to me

Along with it.

On second thought,
No, not taking you.

I wish you were here.
I have lit incense.
The moon lies fair.
It is almost time for breakfast.

File:Pain perdu1.jpg

Pain perdu, French toast French style with fruit, syrup and crème anglais: photo by Rolf Süssbrich, 2006

File:White cliffs of dover 09 2004.jpg

White cliffs of Dover: photo by Fanny, 2004


Anonymous said...

I have found a kind of magic in Dover I never found in any other scene. I was lucky enough as to watch those white walls with my very eyes and they just took my breath away. Crossing the Strait was quite an adventure on a weary ferry facing the uneasy waves. And yet, that is the way I set foot on England. I felt like William the Conqueror getting to the promised land.

Those memories were getting rusty in my heart until I read your enticing poem =)

Radish King said...

A memory passes across my mind like a shadow
And is gone, taking
Matthew Arnold,
His poem,
The history of English poetry,

And Mandelbrot Coast of England! (Sorry). Wonderful, all of it. I had chips for lunch. I am hungry. French toast would make a splendid hot evening meal.

TC said...

Lucy, I saw quite a bit of those Cliffs on wobbly little short-hop DC-3 flights back & forth across the Channel in the early mid/sixties. The landing strips were golf courses and fields and the flights were exceptionally bumpy. So the Cliffs sometimes looked a bit too near for comfort.

Here is Matthew Arnold himself, reciting his poem to us. How convenient. The mouth movements remind one of the curious facial distension one sees in photos of test pilots breaking the sound barrier. He really gives his all for us here, does old Matthew.

As to the French Toast, my dear Radish, er, I'm not that hungry yet. "Pain perdu" means of course "lost bread". "Lost" as in "stale".

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the link, dear Tom. Though the animation is spooky, the poem and the sound of it are indeed delighful.

Radish King said...

Tom, I am all too familiar with stale bread, being a baker. (I make most of my own bread.) We eat panzanella all summer long as well as bruschetta. Both recipes long for baguettes lost to perdition.

Sandra.if said...

that was intimate and sweet...

Curtis Roberts said...

New professional responsibilities caused me to reacquire a Blackberry, which has been functioning mainly as a (re)oppressor until French Toast In Two Takes popped up this morning and made me smile. As I read and observed, the levers suddenly began to move, the planes and mirrors to shift, and the slots, folds, bends and sockets lined up nicely and quietly, no spindling or mutilation whatsoever. This was a marvelous meditation on memory and examination of self that hit me just right on this confusing, sweltering day in the northeast. Because I have a 12-year old daughter at home, I have tasted French toast during this century (I don’t need it, but it’s irresistible), but I’ve never actually eaten French pain perdu, such as the preparation pictured, either in France or at home. It looks terrific (so do the White Cliffs of Dover and Cape Gris Nez). Recently we’ve been able to buy wonderful Grade B maple syrup from Vermont and Massachusetts, which used to be hard to find. It’s darker and richer than the supposedly superior Grade A syrup, but it definitely gleams for a moment and is gone, down the hatch.

John B-R said...

I'm really rather partial to Arnold's poem, Tom, so thanks; I didin't ever think I'd get to see him read it.

As for pain perdu ... dang I'm hungry!

Curtis Roberts said...

The Arnold "virtual" video is wild. After that I watched what Tuli Kupferberg and Ed Sanders did in their performances and they've provided a nice, early conclusion to the day's events.

billymills said...

A memory of memory remembered. Is French toast your madeleine, Tom?

TC said...

Indeed every little pain perdu doth put me in mind of perdition, the foster parent of french toast.

Whereas that dark maple syrup, more like a paradise perdu for all the fallen angels.

A baker is a blessing in and at every event.

Every baker probably needs a Blackberry.

I say "probably" because, I am embarrassed to admit, I don't even know what a Blackberry is. And they will probably have become obsolete well before I have learned.

Fifty degrees F here, yet haven't slept for days. Perdido.

Viva España, however.

And speaking of angels, lest one forget... She makes her mouth do even more good things than Matthew Arnold's.



SWEET. coast/toast, fruit, syrup and creme anglais, those photos of white cliffs and straits from satellite are, well, "awesome" --- time passes, we keep on reading (but who else around here is reading Arnold these days?). Meanwhile, more on another channel here . . . .


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, red-tailed hawk calling in right
foreground, no sound of wave in channel

what is not shown insofar as
something, changes what

ways moment, passage of time
and facts, “being taken”

grey-white of fog reflected in channel,
cormorant flapping across toward ridge

TC said...


We are on the same channel,


passage of time

who else around here is reading Arnold these days?

Yes. And indeed, who else is really reading ANYTHING?

This was one of those "litmus" posts.


Radish King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TC said...


Sorry your comment missed my addled attention until I found it in the inbox this morning and then found it gone on the blog. I try to be prompt in responding to those I am lucky enough to be hearing from, tardiness is rude and embarrassing because it implies ingratitude and disrespect whereas the actual problem is just the witless state of the clodger. That is an amalgam of blogger and codger which I have just coined to suit the circumstance.

In any event I hope you will not mind my reposting your comment!

My suggesting that my readers are anything less than amply literate would be an insult not only to them but to myself since what else are we doing here but reading and talking with each other. I knew Kathy Acker when she was a college girl and played catch with Flaubert when he was in short pants yet have not myself learned the first thing about how to be a writer or a reader for that matter, I am merely lost in my dreams. Which I don't even have. When I was in school at Ann Arbor my landlord was a weird Dargeresque fellow whose mother had never let him play with anything but Teddy Roethke's tubers, and that's how things came to be as they are today. As for Heidegger, if I were to be forced to read a a page of Heidegger right now I would break out in spots. I have broken out in spots anyway. My point is, you are a genius writer and I am deeply jealous (not).


Radish King has left a new comment on your post "French Toast in Two Takes":

I'm reading. Constantly and well. I'm reading Theodore Roethke and Heidegger and Keats (I have to sneak this one of my student's parents have a rare 1st edition and I read poems to my student during his lesson) and Avital Ronell next to Flaubert and Kathy Acker and Robert Lowell and a few journals and I just finished The History and Influence of the American Psychiatric Association which begins at the Civil War and just goes on. Research you know. Ha. I have library cards for 4 different counties and I use them all.

And now I'm reading Tom Clark.

Posted by Radish King to TOM CLARK at 9 July 2010 07:48

In the meantime, while we tarry here, Martin Heidegger comes to life, and tells us a bit about his philosophy.

Radish King said...

You are such a gentleman but I am inclined to blush. I pulled my comment not because of tardiness on your part but because of uncertainty on my part. I felt it made me sound like a putz. Thank you for your response though. I took think comments unanswered are nervous making in some way. It happens to me all the time.

TC said...

Yes. It points up the truth that this is a poor substitute for talking in person. But there is sympathy, there is respect. Life of course is nervous making if one is a human being.

The alternatives have not yet occurred to me.