Giving stuff away and French toast

It was a grind at the Community Resource Center today, but in a good way. Every month we hold free giveaways of basic household items. Right now, what our nonprofits need are really basic things: shampoo, laundry detergent, soap. You’d be amazed at all the people out there right now who cannot afford a bar of soap. We have about 70 partner agencies in 20 Middle Tennessee counties and my question of the day was: How are you doing?

The answers were pretty much ” not so hot.” I heard about budget cuts, I heard about a dramatic increase in people showing up at food pantries. I heard about the “grannies” in one senior program whose incomes are only $9,000 a year. I heard about people going from $18 to $20-an-hour jobs now drawing $275 a month in unemployment. I’m lucky. I’m not on the front lines of poverty. I get to stay in my relatively nice warehouse and give away stuff to people who then give it to the really needy. I never see the faces of desperation.

So the day was long but fun. Here’s how the giveaway works. My wonderful nonprofit partners arrive in vans or sometimes trucks. Sometimes they drive an hour or two to get here. Then they get to pick and chose from the stuff that I either buy through a liquidator or get as a donation. Everything in the place is new. Remember when the televangelist Jim Bakker, when asked about the solid gold fixtures in his bathroom, retorted that “God doesn’t like junk?” Well, poor people don’t like junk either. And they shouldn’t have to put up with it.

So after a long day of giving stuff away and hugging my wonderful partners and realizing that they are the true heroes of this stinky recession (Bill Maher thinks we should publicly execute a couple of sub-prime bankers like the Chinese are executing tainted milk producers and I am almost there), I came back to my relatively affluent suburb of Brentwood and tried to think of something really comforting to fix for supper.

I know you’re going to think it odd or elitist that I had a pannatone sitting on the counter in those beautiful boxes pannetone come in, but I did because it was on sale and I really like pannatone. So I made pannatone French toast with bacon. Here’s the tip on the bacon: Put it on a foil-covered sheet pan and bake it at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until it’s done to your liking. Save the bacon grease in a jar for making cream gravy (with country fried steak).

Pannatone French Toast

1 loaf pannatone

5 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

Butter

Slice the pannetone into 1/2 inch slices. Whisk eggs, milk, cinnamon and nutmeg in a shallow dish. Melt butter until it starts to sizzle. Dip bread slices into egg mixture. Fry until golden brown on both sides.

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