Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The French toast is a lie

I'm querying.  It's the suckiest suck that ever sucked but I have to suck it.  I know a lot of you out there are on that roller coaster with me and totally get the suckiness of it all.  You read, re-read, re-re-read your query before you send it out and almost flatline when you hit send.  For days you're obsessing over your inbox, damning Shutterfly and Redbox for popping up as new mail and making you think you've got a response.  The rejections are gut punches, the requests feel like bungee jumping, and the waiting is pure and perfect hell.  The waiting is the hardest part.

You read "How I Got My Agent" posts and it sounds all butterflies and sprinkles, rainbows and unicorns, pink icing and David Archuletta.  You ache for that high so bad you can taste it.  Someone on Twitter gushes about their book birthday and you cheer for them, even happydance, but inwardly you die a little.  You practice your famous author spiel, gushing about the lovelies who supported you on your journey and describing the moment the characters started compelling you to write their story.  Okay, so I might be the only one who talks to myself, but we do what we have to in order to stay sane.  Or some semblance of sane.  Whatever--you know what I mean.

If we're on the same roller coaster (bar in your lap, heart in your throat), maybe you can relate to some of my concerns.

I'm dying to get in the head of an agent with my manuscript.  Every day that passes, my blood pressure rises.  Did she find something in the slushpile she's in love with and throw mine aside indefinitely while she focuses on the new one?  Is she in love with mine and finishing up some other requests before she makes her final decision?  Am I on a "to be rejected" list and she's waiting for some free time to send the sorry-but email?

And this one keeps me up at night; two agents have announced new clients since requesting my full manuscript.  Does that mean a rejection is inevitable?  Even if she likes mine, it has to hurt my chances of getting picked up if she just signed someone else.  Do agents take on several new clients at once?  It'd really blow to lose a race by a fraction of a second.  No matter how close you are to the winner, you still lose.  If the agent is only signing one new client and loves this other manuscript a wee bit more than mine, I'm screwed.  She'd have to lurve (not just merely love) mine so desperately that she'd be willing to make an exception.  Ugh.  More gut punching.  I'm going to stay optimistic and wait for a response.  It's not like I have much of a choice.

Waiting bites the big one.  When I'm not working on my other projects, I come right back to the what-if game with my submitted manuscript.  So I enter pitch contests, writing contests, whatever I can find.  Yes, I have a crazy amount of requested submissions out there, but I want MOAR confirmation.  MOAR requests, MOAR positive feedback, MOAR author buzz.  I'll be on on Xanax and horse tranquilizers before this is over, I guarantee it.

Since I know you're only here for the food, let's get to it.  I found this recipe on Pinterest and made it for Sunday's breakfast.  The whole time I was putting it together I was thinking how familiar it seemed.  I must have been ridiculously tired Saturday night because I should've recognized it right away.  The kids weren't impressed.  No big surprise there--they were never impressed with its true identity either.  As soon as I put a piece on my plate, I knew what it was.  Maybe it was the lack of rum and currants that threw me off.  With the right ingredients, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and a generous drizzle of brown sugar and bourbon sauce, it would've been perfect.  It's not French toast, my friends.  It's bread pudding.  Now you can certainly lie to yourself and call it breakfast (I won't rat you out) but you really should make this.

Overnight French Toast
(aka Bread Pudding)

1 large loaf of day-old bread (challah, farm bread, brioche, etc.)
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
2T vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1t cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter, cut in small pieces.

Tear or cut bread into 1" pieces and place in a 9x13 pan (lined with parchment or well buttered).  In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla until well blended.  Pour egg mixture evenly over bread in pan.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Mix flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and cut in butter with a pastry blender, a fork, or two knives until crumbly.  Sprinkle over French toast.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes (soft and moist) to an hour (firm and drier).  Serve hot with butter and maple syrup, if desired.

For bread pudding, reduce vanilla to 1T, add 1/4 cup dark rum and 1t cinnamon to egg mixture, and sprinkle French toast with a generous handful of dried currants or raisins before chilling.  Omit cinnamon crumb mixture.  Serve with ice cream and bourbon sauce:

8T unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup bourbon or other whiskey
2T water
1/4 t nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 egg

Melt butter in saucepan.  Stir in sugar, liquor, water, nutmeg, and salt.  Cook, stirring until sugar is dissolved and mixture is blended.  Remove from heat and whisk in egg until frothy.  Set the sauce back on the stove and stir gently over medium heat until thickened, about one minute.  Can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to three days.  Warm over low heat, adding warm water to thin, if necessary.