Plate of the Union: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

October 10, 2013

Breakfast was never big on my radar. In high school, it was a major accomplishment for me to remember to eat a Pop Tart, let alone actually put it in the toaster. Cold pizza was a go-to breakfast item. Occasionally, if I felt especially ambitious, I would crack an egg (and a few pieces of shell) into a cup of Bisquik in an attempt to make pancakes.

It took several jaunts abroad for me to appreciate breakfast’s full potential. On my first foray out of the United States, in addition to discovering the magic of overnight buses, I hit breakfast rock bottom.

Paris should have been a culinary dream—croissants, quiche, and café-au-lait galore. Instead, because of a self-imposed food budget, my friends and I found ourselves pouring ramen noodles into a bathroom sink filled with scalding water. We turned on the shower for extra steam, to make sure the noodles cooked all the way through. Still, this stroke of culinary brilliance didn’t have the intended effect, and we pitifully slurped half-cooked ramen from Styrofoam cups at eight in the morning.

Literally anything could taste better than soggy sink noodles. It was a miracle, then, that our next hostel advertised every backpacker’s favorite two-word combination: “free breakfast.” They served us Nutella, which wields the power to compel any previous breakfast hater to greet the first meal of the day with open arms.

A year later, I found myself in Russia to welcome in 2012. I stayed with a lovely older couple in St. Petersburg for New Year’s, and it was there that my relationship with breakfast experienced serious mood swings.

Some mornings, I was greeted with kasha, Eastern European porridge that can be made with one of eight different cereals. Count ‘em: eight. Everything from raisins to mushy bananas to brown sugar was fair game for mixing into kasha, allowing for endless possible combinations of delicious breakfast.

Imagine how sad I was one morning to find, instead of a heaping bowl of kasha, a plate of small slices of white bread smeared in butter and topped with sizeable dollops of red caviar. Confused, I asked if this was really breakfast. “Of course,” my host responded, bewildered at my question.

Somehow, I managed to gobble down several scoops of caviar before 9 a.m. Apparently, by finishing the meal so quickly, I had signaled my affinity for breakfast fish eggs, because the next morning I found the same meal on the table. Unfortunately, I was never able to get myself back on the kasha train during my time in Russia.

On the plus side, I managed to avoid caviar as a breakfast dish on subsequent trips back to Eastern Europe. In Ukraine, I had a brief culinary love affair with tvorog, known in the States as farmer’s cheese. Before boarding the minibus to Odessa, my friend Marina and I drank green tea and ate tvorog mixed with strawberry preserves.

Although I loved my breakfast ritual in Ukraine, Turkey boasts the best breakfast spread my stomach has ever had the opportunity to digest.

I spent a semester at Georgetown’s villa in Alanya, a small tourist town nestled between mountains and the Mediterranean coast. One of many perks involved with studying in Alanya was the weekly Turkish breakfast at a local café. We would carefully walk down the hill from our apartment building to the restaurant, our mouths instantly watering at the sight of the table covered in plates of food.

Bread is the essence of Turkish breakfast. You haven’t done Turkish breakfast right if you haven’t had at least a loaf of bread. On what else are you supposed to spread feta cheese and drizzle honey?

Carbs aren’t the only item on the menu, however. Tiny bowls containing a rainbow of preserves, ranging from the familiar strawberry to the exotic quince, were scattered across the table. Menemen, an omelet-like dish with peppers and onions, was served in small copper pans.

After returning from these adventures abroad, I have learned to balance my natural apathy for breakfast with an acquired affinity for the first meal of the day. We’re told from a young age that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When you look at the average college student’s breakfast habits, though, it’s not clear that this wisdom has sunk in.

An extra fifteen minutes of sleep trumps making oatmeal. We delude ourselves into considering coffee from MUG a full breakfast. Yet I watch my roommate-turned-chef-goddess in awe as she whips up meals of avocado and toast, sauces from pomegranate and honey, and eggs prepared according to three different methods. It’s a miracle if I don’t burn my cheesy scrambled eggs, but it’s a first step in a positive direction.

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