Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The true wonder of breakfast

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

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.


  1. Breakfast - oh god breakfast.... Monday we had blueberry pancakes, some berries in the batter, some stewed to a compote on the side, strawberries macerated in rosewater, then for sod-it-all bank holiday-ness, fried prosciutto and maple syrup. We rolled as weebles away from the table.

    But Sundays are sacred. Every Sunday, farmhosue breakfast sausages from the butchers in Dulwich, home-made bread, white or granary but quite thick, ketchup on the side only and a pot of coffee and the papers. With the passage from Don't ask like a refrain in my mind, where they eat sausage sandwiches in the covered market with ketchup and thick black coffee... stuck in my head because of my equal and unfailing adoration of sausages and coffee I suspect.

  2. Jo - Strawberries macerated in rosewater is too good. That really is a breakfast poem.

    How funny you remember the sausage sandwiches from Don't Ask Me Why. Those were taken directly from life. There was a greasy spoon in the covered market in Oxford, and it was practically the first place I discovered when I went to university - completely unreconstructed, you could smell the generations of grease - and it had the best sausage sandwiches in the world. I never forgot them. I went back there a few months ago, and of course the old caff has quite gone, some chi chi thing in its place. But the memory lingers.

  3. Now that was just cruel - rushes to kithen for bacon and eggs. Late breakfast, er no, second breakfast

  4. Titian - I really do sometimes think that a second breakfast should be mandatory. I especially like a little healthy one very early, and then a real artery buster later on. x

  5. Oh breakfast. Hubby and I are rather obsessive about it. In the ten years we've been together we've had the exact same breakfast every day... Bowl of natural yoghurt with müesli & bowl of fresh fruit and coffee with hot milk. I have a cup of herbal tea first, my stomach doesn't approve of coffee first thing.

    On a Sunday we've been known to also make eggs, bacon & sausages w own sourdough bread to prolong the totally underrated pleasure of spending 3 hours in the company of each other & the Sunday Times...

    Junior has the choice of 1)porridge w berries & banana or 2)Weetabix w berries & banana or 3)a plate of ready-to-eat fruit (incl. berries & banana).

    I'm proud to say that he doesn't even like cereal anymore, even if we allow it on holiday. Easter holiday: 2 days of coco pops (or whatever they're called) and then back to fruit. Yeahhh!

  6. Nene - OWN sourdough bread. I am fainting with admiration. The only bread I can do is soda bread. I dream of sourdough. V impressed that Junior is rejecting evil Coco pops.

  7. oh I LOVE soup for breakfast. I used to have ramen when I lived in Singapore. I've never understood sweet stuff at breakie. I like my French toast with Marmite, but I haven't tried this out in public yet here in America as I fear I may be lynched. LLGxx

  8. LLG - how fascinating that you lived in Singapore. I had friends who did and used to go on three week trips to visit them. I know everyone says it is sterile and featureless but I adored the wet markets and the shop houses and little India (was once there for Diwali which was a hoot) and the incredible food. I still dream of chicken rice, which I have never been able to replicate. Only those old ladies who make it in their little stalls know the secret.

    Do Americans have any concept of Marmite at all? Or do they think it a sign of British madness and decline?


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