I can’t function without breakfast. So, when I travel it’s vital to find When and Where Breakfast Is Served. Especially if it’s on the rooftop terrace, twenty floors up in the lift.
When I was a student, travel breakfasts were a tad basic for my taste. In Italy, usually the home of deliciousness, it consisted of one rock hard roll which shattered into shards, one portion of jam (albicocca, per favore) and coffee. In Greece every breakfast was accompanied by what we named Glob Juice…extra thick Rise and Shine.
Things looked up when I went on a city break to Vienna with my mother. Until she decided we wouldn’t have to buy lunch if she took extra rolls, cheese, cold meats, cake and fruit from the buffet. I was squirming with embarrassment as she assembled a full packed lunch, wrapped it in paper napkins and secreted it in her huge white handbag (it’s 1988) to a piped soundtrack of Strauss waltzes.
Ah. The Breakfast Buffet. Sometimes it stretches to the vanishing point of the horizon. So many cheeses. Froot Loops. Six types of rye bread. The conveyor belt toaster that takes ten minutes to turn the bread beige. Hot Milk. Cold Milk. Sour Milk. Gherkins. Gherkins?
You pile your plates and bowls high. This could keep you full until the evening. Well, you, perhaps. Not me.
In a Stockholm hotel, I watched an elderly couple (Latvian? Lithuanian?) as they were overwhelmed by the choice. I had eaten all of my 3 or 4 course breakfast, plus juice and two cups of coffee in the time it took them to browse and select from the buffet. This was a feast they had not encountered. So much choice, so much food…so much waste.
In Sri Lanka the signature dish is the hopper, a pancake often served with a fried egg cooked in it. In Northern India it’s omelette or porridge, omelette or porridge. A British Raj hangover.
Sometimes you discover that you won’t be drinking coffee for the duration of the trip, because they only serve weak instant. Alternatively, you realise you’ll be on caffeine overdrive as you can’t get a drinkable cup of tea.
And then there’s Japan. Another tea kettle of sashimi altogether. Starting with the sushi breakfast at Tsukiji Fish Market on arrival, to a table just off the floor in a ryokan, sitting on a tatami mat and looking at a still life of tofu, miso soup, seaweed, pickles, ginger and a savoury baked egg custard in an eggcup with a fungus surprise in the bottom. It can drive those of delicate constitution into the Starbucks just around the corner.
International variations in English can also lead you astray. In South Africa I ordered Oats, which on the pictorial menu looked like granola. “Oats” equals Porridge. At another breakfast there I ordered Flapjacks with maple syrup and bacon. Be adventurous, I thought. Flapjacks turned out to be Scotch Pancakes. It was good. But I had a heated debate with my South African friend about Flapjacks. We hammered Google Images.
Me: “That’s a Flapjack”.
He: “No.That’s a Brownie”.
Me: “This is a Scotch Pancake.”
He: “No. That’s a Flapjack.”
Next month I’m going to South East Asia. I’m sure there’ll be surprises and even shocks at breakfast time. But one thing is certain, as sure as scrambled eggs is eggs. I will not go anywhere until I’ve broken my fast.