Breakfast is a problem for me. As a school age kid, it was drilled into me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That’s all fine and good if someone else prepares it and cleans up. If you have to do it for yourself or (even worse) for others, it’s a different story.
Starting the day with a nutritionally-balanced stick-to-your-ribs meal makes perfect sense. But I cling to the notion that breakfast should be easy, quick, and, above all, avoid dirtying pots and pans. Sweet pastries (donuts, danish, and the like) are seductive, but not particularly healthy. I have a prejudice against filling the sink in the morning with cooking paraphernalia. Doesn’t make any sense, I know, but that’s me.
It’s easy to see why these ideas are at odds.
If I had a magic wand like Harry Potter, then I could just conjure up the ideal morning meal. But without it, bacon, eggs, and oatmeal all involve standing at the stove. Some fresh fruit, yogurt, and toast doesn’t. (I’ll allow toast, since there’s no pan to be cleaned.) But this easy option leaves me ravenous and sometimes hangry by mid morning.
I pine away for the hotel breakfast buffets of Europe. Across the spectrum of star levels, hotels there put on a diverse, enticing, and sometimes lavish morning offering. They’re a far cry from the pre-packaged, single-serving, generic breakfasts of most American travel hotels.
Even in modest hotels the buffet includes a selection of freshly baked breads and pastries accompanied by butter and jam, fresh fruit, and three or four types of yogurt. There are also eggs: scrambled, hard boiled, and soft boiled (snuggled under a blanket to keep them warm), plus a lovely platter of cheeses and cured meats.
In the more lux establishments the spread expands to include smoked fish, bacon, and sausage. The cereal table can have muesli along with corn flakes and cheerios, not to mention oatmeal and granola. There could be a dozen breads: sweet pastry, whole grain loaves, crusty rolls, American-style muffins, local specialties, and, of course, flaky croissants.
I’ve also seen unexpected choices including baked salmon (served cold), olives, sun dried tomatoes, and pickles. Travelers from Great Britain are comforted by broiled tomatoes and baked beans. If there are a lot of Asian customers then seaweed and clear soup are on display.
There is always a broad selection of jams and spreads: strawberry, raspberry, apricot, marmalade, plus honey.
It’s impossible not to overeat with this luxurious spread.
After our last trip, I adopted the hotel buffet idea for home use. My two-part morning meal begins with a bowl of mixed fruit salad tossed in whole milk yogurt. Part two, a little while later, includes cheese (usually brie), a slice of ham, and toasted European style bread, either dark or white.
The breakfast is easy, leaves only a few dishes, and it’s very satisfying. No midmorning hunger pangs with this menu.
If I want a hot, fresh-cooked breakfast, then it’s time to go out. Since I like to eat first thing, I don’t often get organized that early in the morning. Instead, I order from the breakfast menu at lunchtime when I’m in the mood.
Diners are a welcome source for all-day breakfast. These uniquely American institutions are known for multi-page menus and extensive, reliably-traditional breakfast menus. When I have breakfast for lunch, I feel like I’m on vacation, even if I only drove a few minutes.
The gleaming Post Road Diner on Connecticut Avenue in Norwalk with its fully-restored classic-diner interior has a full page in fine print of breakfast offerings. The Sampler includes two full-size pancakes, two eggs, the trio of ham, sausage, and bacon, as well as a generous slab of good hash browns all for $12.50. It’s enough to quell any breakfast cravings. Carb heavy, but very satisfying.
Other local diner options include the old-school Family Diner on Main Avenue and the classic offerings at Orems on Rt-7 in Wilton. Any one of them excel at two eggs over easy, home fries, and sausage with a mug of hot coffee to wash it down.
I’ve done some informal polling and learned that I’m not alone in being lazy about breakfast. The majority seem to, like me, avoid cooking with a cold breakfast.
Peanut butter comes up a lot. Spread on toast, or a bagel, paired with jam or honey, it’s a quick and satisfying start to the day, if not nutritionally balanced. Expat Europeans prefer some cheese to start the day, with good bread and perhaps some granola. Hard boiled eggs are a popular way to have a traditional morning food that can be cooked in advance.
Breakfast is the most personal meal of the day, tailored to individual tastes, daily schedule, and family traditions while fitting into often hectic mornings and fueling us up. Not an easy job.
Frank Whitman can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.