The Perfect Campsite Breakfast

If Mrs. Bell had her way, we would eat Greek yogurt with seeds and nuts and bananas and a small spoon of jelly for breakfast every day. Last night’s dinner was pasta which was actually baby marrow (did she think we would not notice?) with watermelon for dessert. I am forced to drink a gallon of water every half an hour, and the proper beer has been replaced with small quantities of tepid Lite. If I eat one more avocado, it might incite murder. It is time for a revolution! I am a man, and I like to eat macho food, fried in butter, served with salt! Vive la France!

In France, French toast is known as pain perdu (lost bread). The ancient Romans called the ever-popular dish pan dulcis (sweet bread). Back in the day, not too long ago, when bread only lasted a day or two, there were few options for reviving stale bread. Soaking bread slices in a mixture of egg and milk, then frying in butter or oil delivered a delicious meal from potential waste.

When Mrs. Bell allows the consumption of bread, we try to buy the most natural option available. But that is also the type of bread which is superb fresh out of the oven and less palatable a day later. The only drawback of French toast for a family is that other than the meal not being incredibly healthy, you can usually only make two slices at a time unless you have a large two burner and two large frying pans. Yes, the greatest challenge is making enough, fast enough. We tend to eat French toast on high activity days and before hikes. At a ratio of one egg per slice of bread, a meal of two fried slices is not at all expensive, which pleases the Department of Finance and Taxation no end (Mrs. Bell).

1 egg = $0.12

1 slice of bread = $0.10

10ml -15ml of milk = $0.02

Blob of butter = $0.10

Salt = $0.01


For a grand total of $0.35 (less cooking gas) per slice, a family breakfast for four eating two slices each will cost the grand sum of $2.73. Long-term, long-distance overland travelers count pennies and love a good value meal. But that is a basic slice of buttered French toast. You can take it to the next level by adding strawberries and blueberries, syrup and cream cheese, bacon and syrup, figs and goat cheese, banana and dark chocolate, cinnamon, etc. We don’t. The boys have their slices with fat blobs of salted butter, and the girls eat theirs with maple syrup—simple.


To make perfect French toast, you will need:

Thinly sliced bread slices, 7 millimeters (.25 inches) thick (brioche or a homemade white bread, though any white bread will do; brown bread doesn’t deliver the same flavor



Salted butter


Mixing bowl

Soaking dish

Non-stick or well-buttered frying pan


Heat source (gas cooker or campfire)

  1. Crack the eggs into the mixing bowl, using the ratio of one egg per slice, and add a dash of milk (10 – 15 milliliters or 1 tablespoon or less per egg, roughly). Too much milk will ruin the mix. Add a dash of salt to taste. Whisk with a fork or whisk until bubbly.
  2. Pour the mix into the soaking dish; any dish which can accommodate at least two slices will do. Soak the first two slices for a few minutes and flip until the bread is soaked through.
  3. The frying pan should be heated and buttered; the butter should bubble gently. If the butter smokes and turns brown, the pan is too hot. Maintaining low but sufficient pan heat is the trick.
  4. Using a fork or spatula, slide the soaked bread into the pan. Shake the pan until the bread slides; do not let the slices stick.
  5. After a few minutes, add a blob of butter to the top of each slice and flip the bread; you should have perfect, crispy grilled slices. Cook until crispy and moist throughout, not soggy.

When ready, either put to one side while you prepare the second batch or serve in stages, most ravenous first, usually the male child or SWAMBO (She Who Always Must Be Obeyed). Or feed yourself first, a good excuse to check the flavor. Allow the pan to cool between batches. Serve with optional toppings.

Bear in mind that you will smell delicious the entire day. You can limit the number of dishes the ravenous male child has to wash by serving in stages using one plate repetitively, using one dish as the mixing and soaking dish, and one non-stick frying pan. We carry a light and inexpensive pancake pan that works perfectly.

So, liberate yourself from the campsite rabbit food and enjoy a slice of delicious history!

Graeme Bell is an author and explorer who has dedicated his life to traveling the planet by land, seeking adventure and unique experiences. Together with his wife and two children, Graeme has spent the last decade living permanently on the road in a self-built Land Rover based camper. They have explored 27 African countries (including West Africa), circumnavigated South America, and driven from Argentina to Alaska, which was followed by an exploration of Europe and Western Asia before returning to explore the Americas. Graeme is the Senior Editor 4WD for Expedition Portal, a member of the Explorers Club, the author of six books, and an Overland Journal contributor since 2015. You can follow Graeme's adventures across the globe on Instagram at graeme.r.bell