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.