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Breakfast

Eating the World Every Morning

There’s Homemade, and Then There’s Made by Benedictine Nuns for 300 Years

Jul.06.17

There’s Homemade, and Then There’s Made by Benedictine Nuns for 300 Years

by Kristin Vuković

Baškotini and skuta in Croatia

We entered the monastery, and Martina Pernar Škunca rang a bell. A window opened and a nun said, “Hvaljen Isus i Marija”—Blessed by Jesus and Mary. Martina asked for a kilo (just over two pounds) of baškotini. The sister thrust a bag brimming with the hard, sweet bread into her hands and Martina gave her 70 kunas, about $10 USD. The shutter closed with such alacrity that I couldn’t recall the sister’s face, having only caught a glimpse of her black-and-white habit and the wireframe glasses set low on her nose. A warm bakery scent lingered.

In Pag Town, on the Croatian island of Pag, a rugged strip of land in the Adriatic Sea, nuns at the Benedictine Monastery of Saint Margaret have made baškotini for 300 years. Centuries ago, many citizens didn’t have open-fire baking ovens, so they would go once a week to the monastery and buy baškotini to last the whole week. The sisters kept their rusk bread recipe a secret—no small feat in a small town. Traditionally presented to guests with bijela kava (white coffee, a sort of latte), family celebrations on the island are not complete without this aromatic, toast-like bread, which has a hint of anise. “I used to eat it with milk when I was child, but it’s more common with white coffee, especially among adults,” Martina told me. “When a child is born, baškotini with white coffee is served, and then we dip it. It softens and it is more tasty.”

Martina works at Paška Sirana, the island’s oldest creamery, which supplies the other half of the baškotini breakfast equation. Residents also eat baškotini with honey and skuta, a sheep’s milk ricotta that is only available during the milking season, from January through June. Sweet or salty with notes of warm nuts, each cheesemaker has their own secret for crafting skuta. After producing Paški sir, the island’s famous cheese made from milk, flavored with the salt-dusted herbs on which the sheep graze, skuta is cooked from the remaining whey.

There isn’t just a strong emotional connection between the island of Pag and skuta. It’s also healthy. Skuta helps to regulate blood sugar, and contains proteins that strengthen the immune system—key for early-rising shepherds who face the bura, a severe winter wind that reaches near-hurricane strength. Skuta was traditionally a reward for shepherds; the day began with a ritual of black coffee into which pieces of skuta were mixed.

This spring, four years after my encounter with the bespectacled sister in the window, I rediscovered baškotini and skuta at Wine & Cheese Bar Trapula, on the main square in Pag Town, across from the Church of the Assumption of Mary. Trapula was a fitting place to reconnect with two of the island’s treasured culinary staples, listed on the menu as the traditional Pag breakfast. The combination was a perfect start to my last day on Pag.

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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