Breaking the Fast

In grade eight we studied Japan.  I remember learning that they eat cold rice and pickles for breakfast.  I was revolted.

Many years later, in the summer of 2010, Lisa and I hosted an Austrian student named Dominik.  He was staying in Edmonton to work at some of the hotel kitchens in the downtown core.  He usually started work late enough that I had time to cook him breakfast before he left.  We went through a few days of yogurt and granola and toast and the like.  One day he started work even later than usual, so I made scrambled eggs and hash browns.

The expression that I had made when I first heard about a breakfast of cold rice and pickles – something between a scowl, a grimace, and a gag – now appeared on Dominik’s face.

“Potatoes? For breakfast?”  He was incredulous.

I understood his reaction better once I had been to Austria.  No matter where I went, and whether I was staying in a hotel or a hostel or a friend’s house, breakfast was the same: buns, cold-cuts, cheese, and coffee.  Sometimes liver spread.

It seems that morning foods are full of medieval stricture.  An Italian would never drink a cappuccino after noon, nor would a Bavarian eat weisswurst.  I would never eat rice before noon.  Perhaps the belly and mind are a bit sensitive after being “starved” for eight hours, so we seek familiar, comforting food.

The hearty, starchy, meaty breakfast is definitely a hallmark of North American cuisine.  If the Austrian breakfast seems austere to you, I understand that the French and Italian versions are even more so, often consisting solely of milky coffee.

Do I eat the kingly meal of bacon and eggs every morning?  Of course not.  But on weekends, holidays, and any other day that I have more than fifteen minutes to prepare breakfast I do.  I associate good breakfasts with weekends and hangovers and holiday Mondays.

Anyways.  With all this in mind I’ve been writing about breakfast dishes.  I’ve already written about a few classic breakfast foods (bacon, pancakes, doughnuts, jam and jelly, soft-boiled eggs).  Expect more over the next couple months.