Morning eating has always struck me as a bit strange, necessary and enjoyable but a bit strange.
For the rest of the day we pick and choose and discuss our eating requirements, having vastly different things from meal to meal as our moods take us. Big dinners with numerous courses, light lunches, snacks, just a little bite - ‘coz I’m not really hungry right now, afternoon tea with sandwiches and sausage rolls and slices of cake, an endless choice of salads in the summer because it’s hot, numerous soups and stews to warm us through in the winter. Indian, Chinese, Thai, Italian, Greek, its all there to choose from.
And then there is breakfast. For most of my life I have had a bowl of cereal, rarely varying the type, with cold milk and a little sugar. Maybe swapping to porridge in the winter. Toast, one with marmite one with marmalade and a cup of tea, two if there is time. Then occasionally at the weekend a late start with a Full English but that is definitely an exception to the rule. It’s a tried and tested routine, easy and well rehearsed and how I see most English people starting their day. The thought of having loads of different things or the choice of other sorts of food does not seem to appeal or even register in our thought processes that often.
There is amusement here, at times, especially with breakfast observations. To start with it is more continental, bread, jam, cheese etc, and definitely coffee rather than tea. There is an industrial sized coffee percolator and a hot water urn, a selection of teas and infusions, hot chocolate powder and hot milk. Plates, bowls and cups are put out for self service. Tables laid out with the obligatory paper place mat, cutlery jam, butter, sugar and cheese. We offer cereal, Cocoa Pops seem to be favourite, and Porridge for those that want to try it. Oats are regarded as donkey food here and there is much discussion as to this strange English, or I guess more correctly, Scottish breakfast dish. A good source of energy, it fills you up and keeps you warm. Just a small bowlful with a little sugar will keep you going until lunchtime.
Guests help themselves and coffee, tea and chocolate which they put into the bowls so that there is plenty of room to dunk bread and jam.
Serve themselves cereal, with hot milk, in cups and then only drink the resultant brown milk, leaving the cereal to be thrown away.
Porridge is consumed in a similar fashion, the best combination we have seen is with plenty of chocolate powder stirred in. Tried it and it had the consistency of concrete after a few seconds.
Full cups of coffee will be left when tables are abruptly abandoned for no particular reason, along with slightly nibbled pieces of fruit, half yoghurts, prepared baguettes with butter and jam. Do people just forget what they have started? or does their food become momentarily invisible in the rush to go skiing? We puzzle these things but may never know. The spread of bread crumbs, jam and other detritus is also impressive for the amount of time people pend at their tables each morning.
It is interesting to observe how other nationalities take their breakfast, what the procedures and norms are and how we cling to our own morning routine as closely as we do. I guess it is part of the comfort of emerging into the start of a new day.
Oh, and a new one this morning, bread with drinking chocolate powder sprinkled on it, real thick, like a layer of snow. MMmmmmm