Monday, 1 June 2015

Breakfast in America

My shiny, beautiful, successful and unintentional campaign for weight reduction seems to have hit a stumbling block lately. Whereas before I’ve enjoyed months of easy going limited calorie intake that felt like a perpetual motion apparatus, now I’m constantly hungry. I keep thinking about food. I see images of chocolate, ice cream and meringues before me when I close my eyes.
The fault is easily identified: it’s bloody cold! Or, in other words: f-ing Melbourne winter!

Wedding breakfast, Gladstone Hotel, Toronto, ON, Canada.JPG

What I really wanted to discuss in this post is another area altogether where my diet is being challenged: breakfast.
Over the past couple of years I seemed to have hit upon the right formula for a breakfast that is nourishing, appetising and easy on my stomach at the same time. It is heavily based on legumes. Or, in plain Hebrew: hummus!
The idea is not as farfetched as it may sound. Arab culture, from which the dish we call hummus has been derived, used to regard it as a breakfast thing and in many respects still does.
The problem is when the idea is challenged. That is, when I go out for breakfast in the wider reaches of Australia, where no hummus is to be found. And nowhere is the challenge more blatantly obvious than in that most coveted of institutions, the all-you-can-eat hotel breakfast buffet. It does not take a genius to figure out such a breakfast constitutes clear and present danger to one’s diet; the catch is in the how.
Almost every hotel breakfast features cereals. By now I consider these off limits barring an emergency: the bulk of popular cereals are heavily fortified with sugar, even the allegedly healthy ones, and often comes bundled with other chemicals that are redundant to harmful to anyone on an otherwise balanced diet. There is the option of oats, but other than being as attractive as a glass of crab juice, such options no longer bid well for my stomach – and not surprisingly so, as cereals were a relatively recent addition to our ancestors’ kitchens.
The next hotel breakfast option is pastry based. You get lots of cookies, Danish cakes, croissants, pancakes, muffins etc. In other words, you get carbs laced with oils that are often of the worst type, health wise, and are also very heavy on the sugar. I can get away with these, given I do not do so too often, but I wouldn’t want my whole breakfast to be based on them.
Which leaves us with the last option: the cooked breakfast. Or, to use one of my favourite words in the English language: bacon!
There is no pretending with the cooked breakfast. You know exactly what you’re getting: grease, fat and cholesterol is what you’re getting, thank you very much! On the positive side, you do not get the sugars, which – the matter is still heavily contested and frankly I am out of my depth when it comes to determining which side is right – some argue are much worse enemies of one’s health. Me, I tend to side with the anti-sugar side; not because I know something about the science, but rather because I know what makes me feel better afterwards and what makes me feel lesser afterwards. And good bacon, eaten at moderate quantities, certainly makes me feel good!
Alas, there are often cracks in my bacon ideal. Most notable is the fact Australians tend to cook their bacon the English way – that is, if you haven’t figured it out already through the use of the E word – bland, boring and uninspiring. The more aspirational kitchens will work to solve this problem: some hotels offer American style bacon, while others offer genuinely good quality bacon (e.g., smoked). However, more often than not, one falls on the lowest common denominator kitchen to enjoy the privilege of bacon that tastes like PVC. Poor pigs.

I was thinking of the above while I was having a resort breakfast the other week. I could not escape the conclusion that what might have once been a great event worth looking forward to has now become a wasteful affair featuring highly on frustration. The problem is not just with me, personally, although I am definitely at the very edge of the “easy to please” scale. It’s not just the customer who’s wrong; the core of the problem is with the supply side of things, where most externally cooked food tends to err way too far into the unhealthy.

Image by Cory Doctorow, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) licence

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