All Black on Toast…

cheese_on_toast_0038A cold morning found me doing vigorous exercise in the kitchen. I was cutting thick slices off a dense pain de campagne whose bottom crust was putting up a good fight against my bread knife. As the first slice fell onto its face on the wooden bread board it reminded me of a passage that I had read in a book, the name of which remained stubbornly in that part of my mind which houses all the other names that I can’t remember. I did remember that it was about cheese on toast which I was soon eating for a late breakfast.

It is only as I sit in front of a roaring fire in the late afternoon, enjoying a cup of tea, that I have remembered the name of the book. The writing of Edouard de Pomiane was an early and important influence on my cooking and on my thoughts about food. His book “Cooking in 10 Minutes”, which was first published in 1948, caused outrage amongst the culinary giants of Paris. His debunking of the mysteries of preparing delicious food in a simple way was anathema to the disciples of Escoffier and Careme. Pomiane was not a latter day Jamie Oliver, but a highly respected dietician and, moreover, a professor at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. It was his light hearted approach that inspired me as well as his extraordinary knowledge of the chemistry of cooking: of why and how one particular food would react with another and how, if it didn’t do what you expected, you could correct your mistakes on the hoof. His second book “Cooking with Pomiane” has a foreword by Elizabeth David in which she declares her love of his work and the debt which she felt that she owed to him. There is no higher praise in my mind.

Tranche de fromage by Edouard de Pomiane  ( his version is made on black bread )
“This is a peasant dish, rustic and vigorous. It is not to everybody’s taste, but one can improve upon it. Let us get to work.
The slice of bread should be as big as a dessert plate and nearly an inch thick. Spread it with a thick layer of French mustard, then cover the whole surface of the bread with strips of cheese about 1/2in thick. Put the slice of bread on a fire proof dish and place under the grill. The cheese softens and turns golden brown. Just before it begins to run remove it from the heat and carry it to the table. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Cut the slice into four and put it onto four hot plates. Pour out the white wine and taste your cheese slice. In the mountains this would seem delicious but here it is all wrong. But you can put it right. Over each slice pour some melted butter. A mountaineer from the Valais would be shocked but my friends are enthusiastic, and that is good enough for me.”

He also mentions that “…one can start slimming tomorrow”.

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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61 Responses to All Black on Toast…

  1. margaret21 says:

    Oh yes! Thank you for introducing me to Edouard de Pomiane via such a tempting photo. Particularly tempting on this vile windy cold day with the first sleet of the season.

  2. Darya says:

    Oh dear. This sounds so decadent and delicious! I am trying to slim, but I will just have to try this at some point during the winter! It is like a Savoyard version of “Welsh rarebit” (which we here in Le Nord call “Le ouelche”, insisting on the final -e- which isn’t there). Love it, and your post and picture.

  3. His cheese with toast sounds spectacular! Great photo too.

  4. suej says:

    Oh, fantastic! My mother had some of Edouard de Pomiane’s books! And I grew up with recipes from Elizabeth David’s books, and still cook using her books from time to time…

  5. I will be checking out Edouard’s book. Butter on cheese on toast? Sounds like real decandence! I must put a stop to this habit of reading your blog before dinner time. I’m hungry again.

  6. Mad Dog says:

    You can’t beat cheese on toast, especially with butter. It’s too dry without it 😉

  7. Roger, my question to you is, did you follow the directions word for word? “Pour out the white wine and taste your cheese slice.” It is Friday so if you did, all is forgiven 😉

  8. cecilia says:

    I only came over because I thought your were talking about rugby! ah well.. have a lovely day.. c

  9. The magic words:

    “…cheese on toast…”
    “… roaring fire …”
    “…enjoying a cup of tea…”

    I am a total sucker for all of them. I remember, as a small child after WWII in Germany, going around to the two grocery stores in town and trying to talk them out of ‘cheese ends’ which I would take home and melt in a small cast iron frying pan and share with my mother, either over toast or with a fried egg and toast. I have never lost my enthusiasm for cheese. We are having a cool, drizzly day today and the fire is roaring in the wood stove – with the front door open, and I just had my cup of good Assam Banaspaty Estate Tea, which I consider a fairly good substitute of Ostfriesen Tee. So Roger, it goes without saying that I tremendously enjoyed this article of yours! Many thanks!!!!

  10. Not a good day for me to skip lunch…….

  11. Misky says:

    What a stunning photo. I’m off to make some cheese on toast before heading to dreamland.

  12. Eha says:

    ‘One can start slimming tomorrow’ ~ Hmm, and tomorrow becomes tomorrow becomes tomorrow as I have learned at my own expense . . . wet blanket approach: I know 🙂 !

  13. One can start slimming tomorrow….wonderful sentiment, but one that I might follow too often!

  14. Victoria says:

    Another stunning image………….and the inspiration………..well, the passage you quoted reminds me of my book………Marguerite Maury’s Guide to Aromatherapy – The Secret of Life and Youth, where she talks about the marriage of foods in a meal and their healing properties.

    (and for no particular reason, I’ll add her statement at the beginning of her book….”We are not trying to add years to life, but to add life to the years!” Marguerite Maury, August 1968).

    And thank you for posting this particular image – it gives me some inspiration to have another attempt at food photography in low light.

  15. Michelle says:

    Merci, Roger! I had not heard of M. de Pomiane. But I now feel validated for always putting mustard on my grilled cheese sandwiches—which, for some reason, people have often teased me about. (I don’t know why. It’s delicious.)

  16. He had me right until the butter.. I’m not sure I could do that, but a little arm twisting perhaps..

  17. Simplicity and brilliance merry with a glass of cool white, although I would prefer Red with that deliciousness. As another reader said I love the low light in your photographer. Good thing that I had already dinner before reading this. Red Beets with ripe pears and mustard dressing sprinkled with walnuts.

  18. fransiweinstein says:

    Sounds good to me!

  19. Karen says:

    When I first read the title, I thought it was going to be about burnt toast. Love the simple meal, we have the same thing many evenings when we have had a big lunch….just without the butter.

  20. Great photo, it captures the melting cheese perfectly. That recipe sounds perfect for the miserable rain we’re experiencing in this neck of the woods. The butter suggestion sounds delicious!

  21. rhiannong says:

    Sounds perfect for a cold weekend. A really simple dish but I bet it was delicious!

  22. Cara Hobday says:

    Love the pic Roger, really cost and warm.

  23. That photograph is amazing, Roger. Thanks for your introduction to Edouard. Off to have a look for a book of his to try.

    • He’s always fun to read.He writes as the beginning of one chapter ” The first thing I do when I go into the kitchen is hang up my hat; then I boil some water, I’m never sure why but it always comes in useful for washing up or coffee”.

  24. Great photography, as usual 🙂

  25. One can always start slimming tomorrow….and as we well know, tomorrow never comes!

  26. mrsgillies says:

    I’ve never wanted to eat cheese on toast more than i do at this moment. I wish they had invented technology that if you press your screen it appears in real life in front of you. YUM.

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