Bagel Vs. Dosa Vs. Pain au Chocolat: What is the World’s Best Breakfast?
He took me to a diner in Southwark (pronounced ‘Suth-urk’), or I’d call it a diner, acknowledging there may be burrs in cross-pond translation. Let’s say: it was small, and people knew each other by name, and the waitress was nice and calls you ‘luv,’ and the waiter looked as angry and as hard as cracked pavement, and the both of them worked the till. A place cops go to for breakfast all over the world. Same cops, same jibes, same dark humor.
Different food, though. Here: the glory of the fry-up, the British breakfast, the morning meal of an Empire. I like a Full Breakfast, as they call it. And I liked this one with a passion, ordering coffee instead of tea and setting myself off as American at once. But the fry-up is taken well in moderation. There is too much meat and egg only added on as afterthought; otherwise, it’s all grease, dead animal, and more animal. Big sausage (and please, a real one, a real tube of meat minced and spiced and casing thin but firm just so, not some gray grainy crumbs-heavy mash of gristle, bones and soylent green that some bastards have the affrontery to pass off, really, really!? Really, as sausage); thick rashers of bacon, not my beloved American crisp and fatty brittle but slab stuff, curled pink, salty and good; black puddings, more common in Scotland and Ireland; maybe baked beans, or a fried tomato, or fried mushrooms, all little concessions to the plant and funghi and legume world; several pieces of thick bread. Heavily buttered.
Take that, heart.
How we gastronomically kick-start ourselves — what we choose to consume first thing when the idea of food may be an unpleasant afterthought to slumber, or an unpleasant formality before work, or a much anticipated meal taken with time and care, or a bulwark against being hungover (guilty!) — is one of those cultural benchmarks that obviously sets peoples apart and brings them together, occasionally, in curiousity.
So I ask you this, readers: which is the way you start your day in your part of the everyday, couchsurfing world? What, folks, is the best breakfast? I have my own ideas on the matter, and my Facebook friends have been posting furiously on the topic for a few days. Some contenders include the afore-mentioned fry-up, which is also popular (with variations) in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Other options are:
- Dosas (South India): Thin rice pancakes stuffed with hot, spiced potatos. A good combination of light crisp and heavy potato starch. No meat, of course, and spicy for the gringo tongue.
- Desayuno Tipico (Central America): From a friend: “fried sweet plantain, salty cheese, refried black beans, eggs, corn tortillas, crema.” A good contender within the egg-y school of breakfasts. The sweet of the plantains gets good balance from the heft of the beans and the salt of the cheese.
- Pancakes, syrup (North America): Fluffy, light, delicious…but I’m willing to admit, perhaps an acquired taste for those unfamiliar with it.
- Cafe et croissants or pain au chocolat (French): Francophiles swear on this stuff. I like it fine, and admit this if one of my most common breakfasts for ease of preparation. But the French (and I’ve noticed, most continental Europeans) are not big breakfast people. And within the context of best breakfast, I want Big Breakfast. Because I am American. Still, wins plenty of points for accesibility.
- The Healthy Alternative: Muesli, yogurt, fruit. I love grease as much as the next guy, yet I cannot debate the lovely feeling of not-gonna-die-ness the above imparts. To make this sort of thing less granola-y and more cosmopolitan, I convert The Healthy Alternative into The Meal Enjoyed On My Future Greek Island: yogurt, honey, walnuts, some good bread, olives and cheese.
- Pho (and its many iterations): Southeast Asians eschew the egg-bread-meat orthodoxy of the West in favor of noodle soup. Perhaps the healthiest choice on this list, and one that requires the Western reader to completely abandon their concept of what breakfast should be, instead opting for the hearty warn fullness of soup mixed up with the fresh spice, color and quick, sharp flavors of Asia.
- Bagel and Cream Cheese (New York, Montreal): Can’t argue with a classic.
- For myself, I’ll always swear by Surrey’s in New Orleans. New Orleanians are naturals at combining the best of culinary schools, and at Surrey’s I can opt for the starch and meat route (shrimp and grits), the good and bacon-y, the bread and slow sweet (french toast) or my personal favorite: the scratch grease thick and flaky hearty comfort of biscuits and sausage gravy. It is 7:20am in Europe. Dude. I need some breakfast.
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