Good Food Blog
Beyond cornflakesPosted at 12:02PM, 11 November 2008 by Stuart Walton - Food and wine writer
What's for breakfast? This is, we are told, the most important meal of the day , so we'd better get it right. Eating nothing is disastrous, as it leads to hunger pangs kicking in around the middle of the morning, so that we find ourselves overeating at lunchtime, or else filling up in the interim on choccy biccies.
There wasn't, it seemed, even time to put the kettle on
People who drink heroically in the evenings are more inclined to skip breakfast, finding that they have no appetite when they get up for work, other than for another pint - of strong, engine-revving coffee. My sweetheart used to leave for the morning commute from Brighton to London with nothing more than a sip of water to run on. There wasn't, it seemed, even time to put the kettle on.
So breakfast is necessary. But of what shall it consist? The grilled chops, liver and bacon or kedgeree of earlier eras, when breakfast really was a matter of breaking the fast of night with a meal (since lunch had yet to be invented), may not be quite practical these days. We rarely want to do anything that feels too much like cooking, except typically at weekends, when the frying pan gets its weekly outing.
The nearest I get to cooking on weekday mornings is an egg (or eggs). What can be more comforting than a poached egg on toast, or scrambled if I've the energy, the more so if the toast is also spread with some good smoked fish pâté. Sometimes I'll do an omelette, loaded with ham and chopped spring onion but never cheese, which has no place on the breakfast table for me, whatever the Dutch people say.
What I've discovered over the years is that I have very savoury tastes first thing in the morning, even to the exclusion of marmalade. I buy marmalade as though it ought to be a kitchen standby, but at what time of day I'm expecting to eat it, I can't say. A fruit yoghurt I can manage, but that's as near as I get to sugar at the break of day.
A recent trip to Beijing and Shanghai made me reflect on breakfast. Apart from congee, the thin rice gruel that may taste of next to nothing or else be alive with chillies, the Chinese people eat pretty much what they would eat at any other time of day, selecting jiaozi (dumplings) from the hotel breakfast spreads, with a little braised pak choi and shredded ginger on the side.
While I can't warm to congee, what I did find utterly satisfying and nourishing first thing was egg fried rice . It somehow combines the British elements of eggs and frying, but with the fortifying carbohydrate in the form of grains rather than bread. It sets you up for the morning, as breakfasts are supposed to, especially at the dank end of the year. If I could bear to make with the wok as soon as I got up, this is how I might ideally choose to start my day.
What unlikely dishes do you dream of in those moments before arising?