Yummy bits and bobs from my kitchen!
How do you like your eggs in the morning? Boiled or fried… no? Rancheros or soy braised maybe?
Even though 93% of Americans believe that it is the most important meal of the day, a study by the Food and Agricultural Organization shows that only 44% eat breakfast on a daily basis! Eating a healthy breakfast is one of those things that everybody knows is good for us, but seems to be so difficult to stick to.
Maybe it’s because people want an extra half hour in bed, or because it can be such a downright dull meal, but all around the world people are neglecting their early morning meal. If you walked into a stranger’s house before the morning commute, as well as some confused/ angry residents, you would be increasingly likely to find bowls of sugary, western style cereal on the breakfast table. That goes for the UK, US, Germany, Japan – in fact practically anywhere in the world.
Personally my favourite breakfast is Huevos Rancheros, a delicious Mexican dish that really packs a punch in the morning. No matter how much I love this kind of breakfast though, I know that breakfast is a meal that’s easy to neglect.
The international diversity of breakfast really is inspiring though. After a trip to Poland and experiencing a rather mouth-watering traditional Polish breakfast every morning ,I found myself wondering about what people around the world chow down on at breakfast time. It turns out that people around the world have put as much effort and care into their breakfasts as we now put into some of our special main meals. Some of these are amazing and are leaving me waiting for the morning to come around again.
I was pretty taken by the varied dishes served at breakfast time in Poland. Different variations on grilled Polish sausage and eggs seemed to be pretty popular, but heavy (and delicious) dishes like this were also served along side a massive variety of fresh and light foods. Like in much of the rest of Europe, ham, cheese and bread played a large part in the meal, but there was also a brilliant selection of salads, fresh fruits and veggies, sliced finely and very prettily arranged. Traditional Polish breakfast is basically like the ideal picnic.
So, this one probably isn’t much of a mystery to a lot of people, but it’s so different to sugary cereal that I thought it was worth a mention. English breakfast is of course eggs, sausage, bacon, toast with beans or tomatoes. It’s also sometimes served with black pudding and hash browns. Scotland has its own breakfast which instead of hash browns and black pudding might have a potato pancake and fruity white pudding. Not so much now, but in the past fish was a popular dish at breakfast. Smoked fish such as salmon or mackerel would often be served with scrambled egg and toast.
China has an amazing array of breakfast foods, and chances are that if you like to eat Chinese for your evening meal, you’ll like it for breakfast too, because a lot of it is the same kind of thing, just more convenient for eating on the go. Most cultures have a type of porridge as part of their morning meal, and China is no exception. A very slow-cooked, creamy rice dish called congee is often served with shredded meat and veggies. alternatively, many Chinese people grab noodle dishes and deep-fried bread products from street sellers early in the morning.
Rice, eggs and spam are a very popular breakfast in Hawaii because of the cultural influence of Portuguese migrants to Hawaii. That spam is sometimes switched for Linguiça – a type of spicy Portuguese dry sausage. Maybe not the healthiest breakfast but all those calories and protein sure should be enough to keep you going well into the day… if you’re looking for something a bit more healthy, maybe go for fresh fruit- Hawaii has a great climate for growing delicious tropical fruits like mango and papaya, which are very popular accompaniments to any meal.
One of the most traditional breakfasts in Kenya is uji, a simple porridge-like dish made with different types of flower, or for a more substantial start to the day, people might include mashed yam or sweet potato in their meal. The cuisine of Kenya also has Indian influences, so breakfast is often eaten with a chapatti-like flat bread. Like the British, people in Kenya often like to drink tea with their morning meals, except again, this has Indian influences – it’s not Earl Grey or English breakfast that is so popular in Kenya, it’s a lovely cup of spiced chai – yummy!
Pretty much everyone will have had the virtuous pleasure of eating muesli in their lives, but the majority of us are actually eating it incorrectly! Muesli was originally designed to be eaten soaked in orange juice rather than milk, transforming this usually oaty and creamy tasting cereal into a zingy fruity sensation. A global favourite that also began as a Swiss breakfast food is rosti, the cake made of shredded potato and onion. Other than that the breakfast food of Switzerland is very diverse because of the French, German and Italian influences on its cuisine.
Like China, Japan’s traditional breakfasts don’t differ so much from the other meals of the day. Like the famous Japanese bento lunches, breakfast will often consist of leftovers from the previous night’s meal, or a selection of simple dishes. These dishes will often include steamed rice, pickled vegetables, grilled fish and miso soup. Eggs are also popular and are eaten as a sweet omelette as part of a selection or used to make a dish called “Tamago kake gohan” where hot rice is mixed with a raw egg and soy sauce.
Breakfast in Turkey, like in many other countries, comes in the form of a buffet of simple dishes. Like in Polish and continental European breakfasts, ham, cheese, bread and eggs are often served alongside more uniquely Ottoman food items like a savoury pastry called Börek. Another form of Turkish breakfast is Menemen, a dish where scrambled eggs are cooked in a rich, spicy vegetable sauce, and is the kind of thing that other cultures would probably consider worthy of a larger, heavier meal- more of a brunch than a breakfast.
Breakfast in France goes well beyond croissants and pan aux chocolate. France does not only have bakeries, but they also have patisseries who specialize in pastries and cakes and Boulangaries that specialize in different types of bread. These specialist shops mean that France produces some of the most intricate, delicious, and varied baked goods in the world. Just some of the things they produce include mixed fruit tarts, light Choux pastry éclairs and brioche studded with fruit, custard, chocolate or sugar. For people who want their breakfast hot and savoury, croque-monsieur is a must – it’s like a delicious, béchamel soaked ham and cheese toasty, and is popular in many street side cafes (find my Croque-monsieur recipe here).
Not so much nowadays, but traditionally in Peru, a large part of the population were farmers, so every morning would begin with a very large, full meal. There are a wide range of sandwiches traditionally eaten at breakfast time, while many living in the Andes will eat Adobo Arequipeno- a pork stew, served with bread. If you don’t have the appetite of a llama farmer, you might be more interested in Huevos a la Rabona- it’s basically fried eggs on toast but with a raw salsa type mix on top. This dish was supposed to be created over a century ago as a convenience food for Peruvian soldiers, showing that there is absolutely no excuse to miss out on a good brecky!
So it turns out that very few nations ever chose breakfast cereal as one of their national dishes- the only one who had a cereal as one of their main breakfasts was Switzerland with its muesli, but this is in a totally different cereal league to the sugary, cartoon character endorsed cereals that almost three quarters of Americans eat today. Learning about these different types of national breakfasts has been so interesting (and delicious) I know that from now on, I’m going to have to be more adventurous with my breakfasts.
This inspired me to alter my own breakfast a little, and try to eat a balanced and healthy breakfast that a boxed cereal could never provide. It was delicious, really set me up for the day, and nutritionally gave me a massive boost of vitamins. With the fresh veggies of Polish breakfast, the nuts and yoghurt of Turkish breakfast, the fresh fruit of Hawaiian breakfast, the muesli of Swiss breakfast and a steaming hot cup of Chinese herbal tea, I had inspiration from all over the world that turned my breakfast from dull to delicious. It did take a lot longer to prepare and i know I won’t be able to do this every day before work. From now on though I am going to be making more effort with my breakfast, especially after reading Mr Breakfast’s research about the importance of breakfast– it turns out it’s very important for general wellbeing and long-term health! It would be great if we would all do this more often.
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Where not credited, images are my own and are distributed under the creative commons attributions-share-alike licence.
statistics from USDA, Food and Agricultural Organization