Breakfast and Cultural Differences

Breakfast and Cultural Differences

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Each time people make the flight between the US and Paris, or for that matter any country, it’s amazing how they know immediately they’re in  one place versus another, even before exiting the airport. When arriving in Paris, sometimes famished or awaiting a ride, the selections from the “bar” and the few tiny tables surrounding it, are  limited. There’s a choice of juices, (including freshly squeezed orange juice), coffee made in various ways and permutations, tea and hot chocolate.

Unfortunately, the French have discovered those “put your cup under the machine” dispensers. What comes out has no resemblance to anything made out of real milk and combined with sugar and chocolate powder.  Anyone who’s tasted Angelina’s (on the Rue de Rivoli) chocolat chaud comes away with a bad first impression.

It’s rare anyone orders milk and if they do and can actually snare it, more than likely, it’ll be the ultra-pasteurized type — straight from a cardboard rectangular container; the milk is invariably warm or tepid and no tried and true American child would stoop to drinking a glass of  it – even (especially) with an ice cube.

But all is not lost. Sitting on the bar is a selection of croissants and pain au chocolats, and people can always order tartines, which are partial baguettes, sliced just so and smeared with a bit of butter.  Unless you’re having breakfast in a real tourist joint or a hotel dining room, don’t expect to be served a selection of jams or preserves. It simply isn’t French.

What is French is you may see someone drinking a glass of wine, Pastis or a beer at what feels to you like a very inappropriate hour.  C’est la vie réelle.

Italians go light on breakfast, grabbing a fast espresso and a piece of bread. Ditto for the Spanish, unless it’s a business breakfast. More than likely, the middle and upper middle classes start eating dinner when many Americans are in bed watching television.

Turn up at a restaurant in Madrid at 9 pm and you’ll find yourself feeling rather lonely until the diners begin rolling in about an hour later. How the Spanish stay thin is a mystery. Between the tapas served in the office during the morning and a stop at a tapas bar before heading home, Spaniards appear to consume more than their fair share of calories. Italian and Spanish office workers used to go home for lunch and a siesta.  But that’s changed now that traffic is so heavy that most forego sitting in a car in a never-ending commute.  People who live within walking distance of their offices are the fortunate few.

Even though cuisine has become quasi-homogeneous in every developed country, as one chef jettisons to another gleaning the “best of,” wide variations still exist when it comes to the first meal of the day.  When you think about it, the further north the country is located, the more copious the breakfast.

Brits and Scots love their eggs and kippers (smoked herring: a fish, usually a herring, that has been cleaned, split open, and then salted and smoked), while Scandinavians polish that off and please don’t forget the cheese and smoked salmon.

Asian breakfasts are a mystery to first-time American visitors.

Congee  is popular in China and other parts of Asia. It’s basically a watery gruel or porridge that’s prepared in both savory and sweet tastes and can contain an extensive variety of ingredients, usually meats, vegetables and herbs that would be commonly served for dinner as well.

Don’t be shocked if you see Dim Sum on the breakfast menu.  Hotels that cater to both Asian and Occidental clienteles offer something for everyone. It’s insightful to see who’s eating what during the first meal of the day. The more times travelers have been to Asia, the less likely they’ll opt for Corn Flakes. There are numerous parts of the world where fresh fruit is considered a luxury. Conversely, in some poorer countries, fruit is plentiful and is there for the picking.

Even though I love France and am 100% certain that the best bread and pastries in the world are made here, some people might disagree.  Although, I can’t imagine who wouldn’t be d’accord. <ahref="http: />

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