breakfast across five continents…

I’m not shy about pointing out that I have lived and worked on five continents. It’s not a stretch to imagine that I will get to six at some point in my life, but I can’t see myself getting to seven. I can’t imagine a world in which I would go to work in Antarctica, but really, who knows? As it stands, the other one I have never even visited is South America. I have lived and worked in each for at least a year and I think that gives one a unique opportunity to really understand a place and get to know its ways and culture.

The obvious place to start is Europe. I lived in London or the surrounding areas for about thirty yeas of my life (I had a break while I lived in Australia for a year of that). Of all the places that I have lived, London is my home. I have seen it at every time of the day, from a significant amount of the streets, from the air, from the river, from the top of a building in Docklands (about to abseil down – scary) and of course from the top of the London Eye. London is my town and I get a real thrill every time I go back and stand on its streets.

And what would the typical Londoner eat for breakfast? Hands down, it has to be a full English breakfast and if there is a café open, or a pub, or even a restaurant, you will find a full English breakfast on the menu (probably all day). In this breakfast, the main food groups for Brits are represented, meat, potatoes, vegetables, eggs, baked beans! It’s a good breakfast, it’s a fattening breakfast but it’ll keep you going throughout the day, believe me! A breakfast on the go for Brits is usually a “bacon sarnie” slathered in ketchup or brown sauce. Again, we can get that on every high street in the UK, or service station, or even pubs (which now open for breakfast – weird). Bacon is a big deal in the UK and there are entire shopping aisles devoted to it. It doesn’t look the same as American bacon. It has the “eye” piece of Canadian bacon, but it includes the run of fat that surrounds it too. It’s delicious. Believe me. And Brits have barely heard of turkey bacon…

The second continent I lived and worked on was Australia. I don’t have enough good things to say about Oz… but the climate, the people, the outdoor lifestyle all combines into a delightful place full of hope and happiness. The Aussies are outdoorsy, full of life and definitely on a health kick (unless it comes to beer and wine). Their food always errs on the healthier side and in many ways, Oz is like California. For breakfast, Aussies are looking at the healthy options, the avocados, the specialty breads, eggs cooked beautifully. The Aussies have a good brunch culture and they have great sandwiches. When I’m there, I like to order the healthy thing on the menu, just to try it. And it’s always delicious of course. When you eat in the beautiful sunshine, in the open air, food tastes sooooo much better…

Asia, specifically Qatar, was an entirely different kettle of fish to Australia or London. Although you can get most of the food items available elsewhere, the markup on prices is astonishing. Added to that, there are a LOT of restaurants, but you have to look really hard to find the good ones or pay a lot for the pleasure of eating there. Our favorite place for breakfast was an English style café not far from our jobsite. Once a week, our little team would wander down there and have a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and lots of buttery toast.

But we also liked to go to the Intercontinental at weekends and it was there that I first ate my favorite breakfast of all, a ciabatta sandwich filled with halloumi, pesto and roasted vegetables. Not your usual breakfast fare but it was incredibly delicious and very inspiring. I had a halloumi sandwich for breakfast yesterday in fact… Added to this were the champagne brunches, which weren’t something you could experience every day (and at $70-80 you couldn’t afford to), but at these brunches, particularly at the Marriott in Doha, you could drink as much as possible and eat from an absolute smorgasbord of a buffet for about 4 hours. That’s an experience you never forget and it’s no wonder these were a birthday party favorite!

I would be remiss not to mention a real Qatari breakfast, but of course, I don’t really know what that is, but I am pretty sure there would be labneh (a yoghurt cheese), Arabic bread and during Ramadan, I’m sure there is an incredible array of food to start of the day before the sun rises.

And off we go to Africa, to the little country called Gabon, which was a slave trade post for the French and although the French were kicked out over 50 years ago, French is the language and the French influence touches everything, including the food. The usual breakfast fare there is a croissant, but the most common food there is the baguette or French bread. These are cheap, sold on street corners, and eaten by everyone. And of course, the French love their coffee and no one will start working until they have had several cups of the strong black brew (and usually some cigarettes too!) The cafes there also sell eggs or bacon, but you will usually get a piece of French bread served with butter and jam. Oo la la!

Et finalement, we can move onto the good ole US of A, where breakfast is a lifestyle, but in a whole different way. The way the Yanks eat is something I have not yet got used to and I’m not sure if I ever will. The combinations of food are so foreign to me, it’s how I would imagine I would react to an Indian breakfast, or something from Indonesia. In what world is it okay to mix meat and syrup? What’s this obsession with sweet things anyway? Why do we need to eat pancakes at breakfast? Or muffins? Or syrup on pancakes with BACON or sausage? Who invented sweet eggy bread? Not the Brits, the Americans!

It is funny. I can still order what I consider normal in restaurants for breakfast, but the Americans definitely have their own style of food. Breakfasts in America are huge, and in some ways they are similar to English breakfasts, but they have their own twists. The Americans also have a good brunch culture, at least in the DC area.

So the theme throughout all of the continents above is bread and eggs. Don’t you think it’s bizarre that in five continents around the world, the staple food for breakfast is bread and eggs? Did all the countries get the memo at the same time? Is it an offshoot of colonialism? I’m not sure, but I know that wherever I am in the world when I eat my bread and eggs, it tastes damn good…

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