by Margaret Watson
All of us are used to foreign cuisine, even if we have never left our home country. We have at least heard of, if not tried, food from many lands – pasta perhaps or pizza, curry or moussaka , couscous and Salad Nicoise. Few of us have problems with such things. Breakfasts though can be another matter. Go into a French supermarket for instance and look in vain for your favourite cereal or even English sausage and bacon. In Germany my daughter was offered doughnuts and sauerkraut. I think my weirdest breakfast ever was on a plane which served a very spicy, stone cold, spinach omelette which I was assured was a ‘Full English Breakfast’. Americans eat bacon with syrup and pancakes and I know at least one Australian who eats grated beetroot for breakfast on the days she doesn’t eat grated apple – but she was just strange whatever her nationality. When I lived in Pakistan a kind hearted neighbour bought me what she had for breakfast several times a week until I plucked up the courage to tell her that large amounts of boiled, spicy spinach just weren’t my thing.
I grew up to consider that cereals with sugar and hot milk were followed by bacon and eggs or sausages and beans with fried bread and tomatoes and then to fill in the gaps I would have a couple of slices of toast with marmalade as well as several cups of hot, well sugared tea. I must have used lots of energy in those days because I stayed as thin as a beanpole despite having a mid morning snack, a full school dinner, a snack when I got home and then a full dinner and pudding when Dad got home – perhaps with the lack of central heating and no school bus I used up all those extra calories. There were certainly very few sweets in our house, and chocolate was only for Christmas or Mother’s Day.
Read menus carefully and if you don’t know what something means either look it up or ask. You could be paying for an expensive mistake if the waiter brings something you really can’t face eating. Black pudding for instance. It is delicious, but is made mostly from pig’s blood. Haggis is made from various weird bits of a sheep, faggots from all sorts of pig bits and tripe is made from cow stomach – or perhaps you just don’t like meat at all.
People will usually understand if you say you are a vegetarian or can’t eat something for religious reasons, but otherwise why not try a mouthful. You might actually enjoy i t- though perhaps not for breakfast.
In English of course the word means breaking the fast, a sort of religious idea. Other countries don’t give it quite the same status. In Portugal it is simply referred to as morning coffee while in France the title ‘petite dejeuner’ just means something perhaps not quite as good as the main meal ‘dejeuner’ taken at lunch time. America takes breakfast more seriously – cereals, sausages, pancakes, syrup, bacon in huge rounds, grits slathered in butter and gravy – perhaps more than other people eat all day and, for many, all before getting into a car to drive to an office to sit at a desk all day!
What do you eat I wonder? In many countries there is no difference between what is eaten in the morning and at other meals. How many breakfast words can you think of? Think of other meals. How many vegetables can you name in English or how many baked goods? Thinking of different words associated with a subject can really stretch your brain – the Vikings had literally dozens of expressions to describe the sea in all its moods – I wonder what they had for breakfast?