Today I had a real, proper breakfast. I love breakfast and never skip it, but lately I have been eating it on the run, in a fever to get to my desk and start work. Instead of sitting and savouring, I have been regarding it as essential fuel - a quickly scrambled egg, a piece of ham on toast, exceptionally strong coffee not for the joy of it, but for the caffeine. But this morning I had my darling sister staying, and so I was in perfect hostess mode, and a serious breakfast was required.
We had: strawberries and blackberries with plain yoghurt, fresh ginger tea with lemon and honey, and soft boiled eggs with poppyseed toast. (Later, after she had left, as if afraid that I had been a bit too healthy and pure, I whacked down a pot of coffee so thick you could stand up a spoon in it. A girl cannot exist on ginger tea alone.) It was the most intense and simple pleasure. We ate as the sun came dazzling in through the windows, and talked about every single thing that came into our heads. I had that holy Jewish mother feeling of sending her on her way with some good food in her, so that she would not feel weak when she got to the airport. I also felt childishly proud that I had made sure that all the food groups were represented. (This has always been a minor obsession with me.)
It made me think of how much I love breakfast, and of the great breakfasts I have had. There was exceptionally crispy bacon and thick American pancakes in the groovy Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica. My brother came and visited me there, and we made friends with a heavenly waiter called Wayne and ordered all the best claret off the wine list each night, so I needed a good soothing breakfast the next day to steady myself. Once, in Singapore, I had won ton soup every single morning for a week, just because it was so good and just because I could. (I have an odd love of soup for breakfast.) In the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni at Bellagio, a glorious old lady of a hotel, breakfast was taken in what had once been the ballroom. There were parquet floors and vast chandeliers teetering just on the right side of vulgarity and the handsomest waiters I ever saw in my life, dressed up in pristine starched white coats. All manner of food was laid out on long tables draped in linen tablecloths. I had small white rolls and ham and three different kinds of melon and the best and blackest coffee in the world with a little silver jug of hot milk on the side. Once, driving through France on my own, I stopped at a chateau hotel whose name I have forgotten. But I have not forgotten the breakfast they brought me in my room - eggs from their own chickens (I could hear the cock crowing outside my window), croissants as light as air, white unsalted butter, and homemade strawberry jam. I had to keep stopping for fear of finishing it too quickly.
As you may divine from this list, I am a bit of a hotel queen. But I am not a breakfast snob. I take equal delight in a fat bacon butty, or a sausage sandwich with ketchup. I have an enduring love for the humble egg bread, which my mother used to make me as a child, or mushrooms on toast with lots of butter. Marmite should usually come into it somewhere, and sometimes I have an old-fashioned craving for Mr Frank Cooper and his Oxford marmalade. Oh breakfast, I could write a sonnet to it, if only I had a full grasp of the sonnet form.