“For Daisy Ree” the bench read, as if there was no one else whose name could find itself etched into the old, snarled wood. June had already breathed in and out of a midsummer in mid-July, the late-night darkness was already glazed with gray dawn. Staying up until the sun rose across the empty beach wasn’t particularly in the plan but it wasn’t out of it either. Now that the feat had been accomplished, the morning sun unhinged from the watery horizon, here I was, alone. Well, except for Daisy Ree.
She could probably be described as the kind of woman who had well-defined eyebrows and deep-set brown eyes. When she spoke, her voice would’ve sounded thick like poured molasses. She needed reading glasses but never wore them, they made her look too much like Grandmother Joanne. And when she met her husband, a spindly part-time parking-meter attendant named Tom, she told him he’d never win her heart. So he spent the rest of his life trying.
He was the one who dedicated the bench to Daisy Ree, I bet, an ode to his girl whose essence was magnetic and reliable as the ocean tide that now lapped at the wood forever bearing her name. Tom visited sometimes, except he was nowhere to be found on this summer morning. Today it was just me, the sunrise and a mind unable to cease wandering, imagining what I’d make for breakfast and if anyone could really paint an accurate portrait of the indefatigable Daisy Ree.
The last thought remains unanswered but here’s what I made to eat:
Melissa’s Summer French Toast
1 loaf Cranberry Walnut Carrot Bread (If you can’t get Cranberry Walnut Carrot Bread from the Sunday market along the pier in Newport Beach, substitute your favorite, flavorful bread from your local bakery and no, don’t scoff at using fancy bread or my farmer’s market reference. Visiting a warm bakery or baking stand at an open-air market that smells of half-cooked dough and melted sugar on a weekend morning is an event not to be missed and an essential part of this whole recipe.)
1/3 cup whole milk (Almond milk, cashew milk, goat’s milk all work, too …)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon butter
In a bowl, mix the eggs, milk, salt and vanilla extract. Soak the bread (sliced) in the egg until it becomes almost too soft to transfer to a pan. Do not underestimate the importance of a thorough soaking; it’s critical to ensure the successful, delectable outcome of your French toast. In a sauté pan, melt the butter. Once melted and crackling, place the bread slices in the pan and cook until golden brown on one side, then flip and repeat. Serve with warm, maple syrup and slices of whatever fruit fills your fancy. A summer morning never looked—or tasted—so good.