04
Jul
10

comparative breakfast

In Helsinki, the Klaus K laid out a very satisfying breakfast for its guests. I gorged on salmon, trout salad, cheese, ham, brown bread with salty butter, mixed fruit, and coffee. Besides that, pullas and other sweet breads, fresh fruit juices, soft-boiled eggs, roast beef, muesli, yogurt, oatmeal, and tea were available. I ate what seemed like a lot, especially compared to the daily bagel that J-P and I have at home, but it wasn’t just gluttony; it was an experiment. The results? With a brick of protein sitting in my stomach, the need for second breakfast doesn’t overwhelm me at 10, and lunch by 11:30 isn’t a necessity. In fact, I didn’t have much appetite for lunch, at least not compared to normal. I was prepared to skip it the first day, although Patty caught me up in her search for a midday meal around 2:30. The second day, despite a late-morning run, I was content at nearly 1 with small helpings of stewed reindeer (psst: it tastes like venison), mashed potatoes, green salad, and stuffed cabbage leaf.

On the day we returned to England, I breakfasted on a so-called protein shake, a banana, and a pastry. The sugar crash returned with a vengeance. I found myself sweating and shaking in a byway between Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and its bus terminal, letting J-P choose a vending machine snack for me while I chugged desperately at a Coca-Cola. It was more or less empty calories all the way to dinner on the Isle of Wight, and I felt more gluttonous than I ever did in Helsinki. So I imagine the two approaches at least balance out, calorie-wise, and certainly the big-breakfast approach feels better all around.

The Isle of Wight also did well by breakfast. There was a buffet (meager by comparison) of cereals, yogurt, fruit, pastries, and juices, and guests could also order a hot meal with toast and caffeine. I particularly enjoyed the English breakfast plate with beans, a sausage, two slices of bacon, an egg, a grilled tomato half, and a grilled portobello.

Of course, eating half my weight in salmon or pork every morning is by no means sustainable, no matter how much I might enjoy it. But the smoked trout that Klaus K offered is better, at least for now, and so are sardines.

Further experimentation so far supports my hypothesis that my stomach can handle soft-cooked farm-fresh eggs with little complaint. Beans are also an option, whether English/Boston-style or Guatemalan/Mexican-style. And an inadvertent experiment at Ginny’s hands seems to show that whole-wheat pancakes, accompanied by maple syrup and a little yogurt, are worlds less disruptive to my metabolism than white-flour ones. (She fluffs them up by beating the egg whites frothy, and they’re great.) Mark Bittman also has suggestions for hearty but meat-light breakfasts, and I might have to try my hand at kedgeree, a fish-and-rice breakfast popular in Victorian England.

Speaking of Victorian England, my vacation reading (The Smell of the Continent: The British Discover Europe) informed me that differences in expected meal times and content were a point of contention between traveling Brits and their Continental hosts as modern tourism developed during the long nineteenth century. Tour organizers, travel agents, and eventually large hotels were sure to advertise “meat breakfasts,” but even late in the century, satisfying the British desire for a large early meal could be still difficult once off the beaten path. In southeastern France, one traveler complained, “A bowl of black coffee and a piece of bread is the only breakfast that one can expect in a rural auberge. To ask for butter would be looked upon as a sign of eccentric gluttony, but to demand bacon and eggs at seven in the morning would be to openly confess oneself capable of any crime.”

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