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Breakfast

Eating the World Every Morning

The Spicy Scent of Home

Jun.16.16

The Spicy Scent of Home

by Ying Tey Reinhardt

Nasi Lemak in Germany

The ground chili paste in my pan is spitting hot and searing red. The luxuriant crimson mush, made up of shallots, dried chilies, and a handful of ikan bilis (white anchovies) ground earlier, darkened in the oil. The angry fumes scald my eyes, causing me to tear up.

“Oh, that’s going to be one hell of a freaking spicy sambal,” says Christian approvingly as he walks across the kitchen to unlatch a window. My husband hovers over my shoulder as I continue frying, and watches me pour the rest of the fried ikan bilis into the mix.

It’s 10 a.m. in Hermsdorf, a little village in East Germany. Spring air fills the kitchen and mingles with the pungent spice. I’m preparing the chili that makes up an important component of nasi lemak, a Malaysian breakfast staple that consists of coconut-milk rice, roasted peanuts, cucumbers, and boiled eggs. But because our German friends will recoil in horror if they don’t get bread for breakfast, we plan to serve it later for dinner, for my husband’s birthday party.

In Malaysia, feeding someone is the most important act of love. When greeting someone, it’s not unusual to ask them if they’ve eaten. Knowing that your stomach is full assures the other party that you’re well. And if not, the person asking will invite you for food. And here I am, proving my love by trying to recreate the perfect nasi lemak, a comfort dish that Christian and I bonded over, while we were still dating in that part of the world. This is not the first time I’m making it, but this is the first time with the right ingredients. The previous attempts, without the ikan bilis for the chili paste and pandan leaves for the rice, was lacking punch. Christian didn’t mind but I knew better. Living in Germany has taught me to be meticulous. Every ingredient counts.

Just a day ago, we were shopping at Go Asia, a major Asian grocer in Berlin filled with rows and rows of spice and sauces, noodles of all imaginable flavors, and Asian herbs and vegetables neatly packed and glistening fresh. I gasped when I entered; I was awestruck with the choices. Christian said it was as if I had discovered Wonderland.

Hermsdorf, which was once part of the ex-German Democratic Republic, offers no such supermarkets. The closest Asian market, 12 miles away, is a dingy squat. On the dusty shelves are only two choices of soy sauce and little else. Needless to say, pandan leaves and white anchovies were unheard of. At Go Asia, the supermarket was airy and glowed with promise. The two-hour drive was worth it.

My kitchen is now officially coated in layers of oil and hot chili splatters. Wafts of coconut and sweet pandan leaves escape the bubbling rice cooker. Freshly cut cucumbers lay on the chopping board. Peeled hard-boiled eggs in a bowl. A fishy, spicy scent lingers in the air. I hear our neighbor below crack open her window. She coughs. It smells like home.

Probably the Most Wholesome Breakfast Dispatch We’ve Ever Published

Nov.15.17

Probably the Most Wholesome Breakfast Dispatch We’ve Ever Published

by Laura Marie

Bircher muesli in Switzerland

I climb down from the top bunk in the renovated Swiss hospital where I am staying. The retreat center keeps prices down in expensive Switzerland by having us all participate in work around the building, and my shoulders are a good kind of tired after cleaning 18 bathrooms the day before.

There is no kitchen staff; everyone helps out with meals. I’m intrigued to see what was in the enormous, heavy vats that I’d carried to the refrigerator the night before, mysteriously capped with aluminum foil. They said it was “muesli,” but they seemed too heavy for the granola-like substance I knew to be muesli.

What greeted me the next morning in the quiet dining room, between carafes of coffee and plates of pastry, was… goop. The goop appeared to contain some granola-grains like oats, yes, but it also had dried fruit, fresh apple bits, a glistening layer of yogurt over all of it. It looked unappealing, but before I could pass it over, one of the breakfast hosts for that morning grabbed a cup and scooped me out a serving. “Trust me,” she said, as if she could feel my hesitation. “Try it.”

What I tasted was fresh, sweet, with a touch of cinnamon. It felt like everything healthy I could eat, all in one bite. The sun filled the room, reflecting off the snow-capped Alps. I was absorbed in the task of eating my muesli. The small cup I had was so filling I no longer needed the rest of the room’s breakfast bounty.

This goop, or what we know as Bircher muesli, was actually the first muesli (the crunchy stuff came later). When Swiss doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner developed it in 1900 to improve his patients’ health, it was intended as a healthy substitute for dinner, not breakfast. His original recipe—oats soaked overnight, condensed milk, and raw apple—was both effective and delicious, and this meal helped spark Switzerland’s reputation as a wholesome, healthy-living nation. Now it’s a staple breakfast in western Europe, not to mention a mainstay in health stores and brunch spots in the United States.

I didn’t come here seeking the wellness cures of centuries past, but I can feel myself getting a little healthier, it seems, with every bite of this chewy, sweet, crunchy muesli.

L’Abri Fellowship
Chalet Bellevue
Route de Villars 89
1884 Huémoz
Switzerland

“Can You Pour Bourbon on My Doughnut?”

Nov.14.17

“Can You Pour Bourbon on My Doughnut?”

by Roxanne Scott

Doughnuts in Louisville

Two things had to happen once I decided to move to Louisville: I had to try bourbon and I had to try fried chicken. I did not expect to have both on a doughnut.

At 10:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning, the sign in the window of the yellow-and-pink brick building of Hi-Five Doughnuts on Main Street reads: Come & Get It. Once you walk past the pink door with images of sprinkles painted on it, the racks behind the glass window at the cashier have a spread of caramel apple doughnuts as well as beer-glazed doughnuts with mini chocolate chips and pretzels.

The wait was 15 minutes, but I knew what I wanted as soon as I walked in—the KY Fried Buttermilk Chicken Doughnut. But once it was time to order, I decided that wasn’t enough.

“Can you pour bourbon on my doughnut?” I ask.

“We don’t have a liquor license,” the sweet cashier told me. “But we can add the bourbon caramel glaze. That’s made with bourbon in it.”

Done.

I took my seat facing the wall that I’d like to believe is a homage to Kendrick Lamar. In a scribbly pattern, the wall read “Doughnut Kill My Vibe.” The shop sits in the changing Butchertown neighborhood in Louisville. Once a community of German immigrants in the meatpacking section of the city, Butchertown is now a hub for white-collar workers.

Doughnuts have been around for a long time. But the modern, American version made its way to the U.S by way of the Dutch in New York in the 18th century. Back then, the snacks were called “oily cakes.” Later, doughnut production became automated when a Russian immigrant invented a doughnut-making machine in the 1920s. Doughnuts were given to the country’s newcomers at Ellis Island. During World War I, women volunteers served doughnuts to American servicemen to remind them of home. Legend has it that the recipe from Krispy Kreme’s doughnuts came from a Frenchman who sold his recipe to a shop in Paducah, Kentucky in the 1930s.

In the 1940s, the Doughnut Corporation of America led a campaign of ‘Vitamin Doughnuts’ fortified with thiamine, Vitamin B3, and iron. The campaign failed. Today, we know that doughnuts are about gluttony, comfort, and indulgence.

“Thank you for waiting,” the cashier tells me as she places my dish in front of me. But she quickly apologizes and whisks my plate away, saying she forgot to add the bourbon caramel glaze. She comes back with a donut cut in half sandwich-style, with small pieces of fried chicken in between. The creamy glaze drips from the top of the ring-shaped sandwich and overruns on the plate.

A mixture of sweet, salty, booze, and deep-fried comfort, my breakfast was delightful and very much over-the-top. And I’d eat one again. The least I could do on a Saturday morning was treat myself to the simple pleasure of a doughnut.

Hi-Five Doughnuts:
1011 East Main Street
Louisville, KY 40206
Hours of operation: Monday and Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday – Friday: 6:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.

You Could Do Worse Than a Boiled Egg and a Sweet View

Nov.13.17

You Could Do Worse Than a Boiled Egg and a Sweet View

by Lucy Sherriff

Eggs in the Faroe Islands

It’s been raining for five days straight and I’ve yet to glimpse the sky. The low, impenetrable clouds only add to my feelings of isolation. I’m in the Faroe Islands, alone, to film a short documentary on whaling. I have yet to get any shots of the fairytale-like scenery—waterfalls cascading off clifftops and crashing into the sea, grass-roofed wooden churches and craggy, ominous mountains—without getting drenched. My spirits are pretty low.

I spend my days driving from island to island (there are 13 here, although some are only accessible by boat or helicopter), hoping for a weather change. The climate is a national topic of conversation; the Faroese can see snow, rain, sun, and sleet all in the same day.

Today I’m up early. I’ve heard rumors of a break in the weather on Kunoy. I grab a boiled egg and a couple of crackers from the uninspiring buffet table at my hostel to eat in the car. It’s become a boring morning breakfast ritual.

Food can be difficult out here. Faroe Islanders hunt and eat whales. It’s called grindadráp, an age-old tradition whereby pilot whales are herded into designated bays and killed by villagers, turning the sea a startling red. They can only grow five types of food on the island, so what they can’t grow, hunt, or fish, they have to import. This means fresh fruit and vegetables are eye-wateringly expensive, and food can be unremarkable, let’s say, if one isn’t dining in one of the capital’s few (and expensive) restaurants.

Although Kunoy is almost the other side of the country from where I’m staying in Torshavn, it’s only a 90-minute drive. I meander through dark, dank tunnels in the mountains, on winding roads carved out of deep, lush green valleys. The rain is unrelenting, the wind so fierce I have to stop the car at one point for fear of being blown off the road.

As I maneuver another hairpin bend, I finally glimpse the sun piercing through the clouds. The fjord pans out below me, and among the rolling fields and foreboding water, there’s a small, white church.

I glance at the forgotten bundle of napkins on the passenger seat containing the egg and crackers. I’m suddenly hungry and the thought of my simple breakfast makes my stomach rumble. I drive down to the church, hoping for a place to sit. I find a small picnic bench perched on the side of a hill, between the church and the sea. My only company is the few gravestones in the church’s cemetery.

I unwrap my breakfast, crack the egg on the picnic table, peel off the shell and break it in two with my hands. I didn’t bring a knife. I take a bite. The crunch of the cracker seems deafening in the stillness.

A boiled egg on a cracker: my breakfast isn’t organic, local, or “farm fresh.” But paired with complete silence, solitude, and the scenery, suddenly the food doesn’t matter so much.

Fuck Yeah to Australian Breakfast and Getting Things Done

Nov.10.17

Fuck Yeah to Australian Breakfast and Getting Things Done

by Erin Cook

Bacon-and-egg rolls in Canberra

Australia is obsessed with quantifying Australianness. I’d argue there’s nothing more Australian than a breakfast of a bacon-and-egg roll with a flat white on the side. Apart from, maybe, a failing government forcing an expensive and unnecessary vote to quell its own internal discord.

It’s 2017, and these aren’t the simple bacon-and-egg rolls of our grandparents’ generation. Turkey-bacon and tofu for the vegan or religious among us. Scrambled eggs over the classic fried egg for the picky eaters. Soy milk, almond milk, artful shapes made for Instagram posts.

And it’s 2017, and this isn’t the vote of our grandparents’ generation. ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?’ Yes or no. This isn’t a question; this is a call to arms.

I’m sitting across from my sister, Caitlin, on this start-of-Spring-do-I-need-a-jacket early morning at Lonsdale Street Roasters in the hip neighborhood of Braddon, in Canberra, Australia’s capital. After this, she’ll walk up a block and spend the next few hours asking brunch-goers and Saturday shoppers if they’ve received their ballot yet and explain her case for the ‘Yes’ vote. But for now, it’s two sugars and the morning papers.

She wasn’t always like this; usually, she’d have a smashed avo with feta with a debrief of the night before at the more respectable hour of 11 a.m. But she’s incensed at the question our government has asked her, and our parents, to answer about our youngest sister. They’ve forced us to reduce our sister Shannon—and her relationship—to a box to be ticked on a form. Yes, obviously Yes!

Around the country this morning, there are, no doubt, scores of Australians doing the same. A steady, solid breakfast of protein and caffeine for volunteers and supporters who have made it their goal to protect loved ones and strangers from having to fight for their own equality in a vicious battle no one but Australia’s far-flung right wing asked for.

Let Shannon and her partner, let our friends and the hundreds of thousands of LGBT-identifying Australians Caitlin will never meet, sleep in today. Let them wash away the cruel ‘No’ campaign, the letters in newspapers and ads on TV telling them their existence is wrong, with a mimosa or two. Let the government, which sits just a few minutes’ drive from here, answer to them. And they will, with polling showing record engagement and a likely ‘Yes’ win.

There’s nothing extraordinary about what Caitlin is doing. But it’s the ordinary that gets shit done in Australia. This ordinary is quintessentially Australian. And we’ll get this done, too.

All Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Are Not Created Equal

Nov.09.17

All Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Are Not Created Equal

by Andrew Keenan Wong

Ma’ajouqa in Tripoli

Google Maps doesn’t work in the narrow alleys of a Levantine souq, nor can it be trusted to identify nameless street-food spots hidden in marketplace arches.

Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-biggest city, has a strong reputation among ravenous foodies. Pistachio-covered everything at Hallab 1881 and spicy fish sandwiches at takeout counters in the Mina neighborhood are mandatory stops for northbound Beirutis.

My travel companion and I decide to stick to our attempt at adult palates and save pistachio-rolled ice cream for a mid-morning snack. The breakfast recommendation for the day comes with the scrawled last name of a sandwich vendor: Al-Daboussi.

Five different sets of directions from bystanders leads us progressively closer to the alley we’re after. The last gentleman we ask has a particular spark of excitement in his eyes and personally walks us over to the souq food stand.

There, we behold the stand’s blinding LED bulbs, a dusty framed picture of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, an unplugged Pepsi fridge, and people you can never be sure are really employees or simply regulars who hop behind the counter from time to time. On the right, a man appearing to be the boss assembles pea-sized Moroccan couscous in flatbread pockets and on the left, there is the work station for the shop’s rosewater-soaked ma’ajouqa cheese sandwich.

All grilled-cheese sandwiches are not created equal.

The vendor, in his pinstriped apron, gets working around the coffee table-sized metal griddle. A bowl of snow-white cheese chunks is brought over. At the top of the griddle, a reserve of toasted semolina paste is ready for action, and on standby, there is a glass breeq—a Lebanese water jug—filled with rosewater syrup.

When the attendant decides the griddle is hot enough for searing, swift knife-work transforms the cheese chunks into layers of uneven slices. The warmth from below starts to tighten the cheesy mass. His spatula first chops, then rhythmically folds and flips the melt to even it out. The rosewater syrup anoints the semolina putty, and it all becomes one with the elastic cheese-wad. To finish, the grilled cheese lands in a cloud of icing sugar.

A sesame-studded ka’ak (round flatbread) is prodded open to make room for the briny, floral schmear. Here we have a syrupy toastie for breakfast. Mellow strings of dairy carry the sweetness of the submersed rose. The toasted sesame pocket satisfies.

You won’t find this place on Google Maps. If you’re in Tripoli, just ask for Al-Daboussi’s.

Photo by: Hannah Wickes

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