The Most Important Meal

Most people are not at their best in the mornings, both appearance-wise and in their behavior. I know I’m never at my best, which is why I tend to avoid them. Mornings that is, not people. But there are occasions when getting out of bed pre-midday is unavoidable and one of those times is when traveling; whether it is to catch an early plane, bus or train or just to pack in a full day’s sightseeing. Sometimes the reason is as trivial as having to take advantage of the ‘free’ breakfast included in the hotel charge or tour package. Hotels in Asia with a la carte restaurants usually offer morning nibblers three types of breakfast – an American breakfast; an English breakfast and a Continental breakfast. After years of study, I have finally discovered the difference between them.

The first thing to know is to only order a Continental breakfast if you’re not very hungry or running short of time. The only meal with less food is the Biafran breakfast which consists of an empty plate. Apparently what makes it ‘Continental’ is the portions of fresh fruit. Sure, you still get the EU approved non genetically modified free range eggs and a couple of pieces of fat free toast, but the fruit is what is supposed to make you feel like you are eating on the Left Bank. Some people have told me all it makes them feel is the need for two hamburgers. This begs the obvious question: if Europeans eat healthy breakfasts like this every day, why are they so fat?

An American breakfast centres around bottomless cups of coffee, two eggs, bacon and something called ‘hash browns’. I think my mother used to call them ‘potato fritters’ but who cares. More filling than the Continental, the American breakfast doesn’t really have anything ‘typically American’ about it, unless you count those disgusting sausage franks which are sometimes served. My suggestion would be to swap the franks for ‘grits and possum belly’ for added authenticity.

Anyone waking up extremely hungry or with a hangover should definitely order the English breakfast. The plate contains the obligatory eggs and the chef’s definition of English sausage, but centre stage is a generous scoop of baked beans. Not only is it filling and fattening but its therapeutic properties can have a calming effect on a hangover. I think the reason is that consuming a full English breakfast gives your body something else to worry about other than leftover alcohol in your system. Given a choice, I always opt for the English breakfast, my only problem being the baked beans. They’re probably the healthiest item on the plate but I’ve never been a bean fan. Specially after watching Blazing Saddles.

These days, many hotels with catering facilities offer all-you-can-eat buffet breakfasts which, although the type of food on offer seems standard, can vary greatly in quality. Some, here in Pattaya, are good if you love eggs, served fried, poached, boiled and scrambled, as well as in omelet form. Unfortunately, they tend not to stay hot for long and cold eggs are not my cup of tea. The trick is to get in early or watch when a fresh tray is brought out from the kitchen. Health experts tell us buffets are an extremely problematic way to serve food, with more bacteria out there than in Sir Alexander Fleming’s petri dish. It’s not that the food is prepared improperly, it’s just that once it gets out into a room full of coughing, spluttering people, the chances of nasty germs spreading from one diner to another are heightened.

The 12-year-old kid in the baseball cap, sloppy shirt and baggy jeans looked dopey. That’s the only word for it. If what we can achieve in later life is a reflection of what we accomplish as a child, he looked like the type whose highest level of achievement will be to turn into a moron. Keeping my distance just in case stupidity is catching, I watched him examine the large buffet spread. Overweight, he shuffled around the table as if lifting his foot more than a centimetre from the floor took too much energy. He dipped his finger in the soup to check if it was hot. Oh well, I didn’t want soup anyway. He next surveyed the tray of bacon and decided to taste a piece there and then, obviously to see if it was up to his high culinary standard. Apparently it wasn’t, because he returned the uneaten half of the rasher to the tray. I mentally crossed off bacon from the menu.

By the time this brat finished his inspection tour, I was left with toast as the only uncontaminated food. Then a fresh tray of scrambled eggs arrived from the kitchen while Bozo was feeding his face elsewhere, so it was scrambled eggs on toast for me that morning, accompanied by percolated coffee and orange juice. Now that’s what I call an Australian breakfast.

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