If you’ve traveled far from home, you might be able to relate to the unique exhaustion that is jetlag. If you skip too many time zones, it can throw off your entire circadian rhythm and mess with your meal schedule. But, if you want to get moving and see what you came to see, you need to power through and get some breakfast in your belly. Lots of hotels offer free breakfasts, so I’m not going to suggest you bypass that every day…but maybe skip it just once. Instead of scarfing down your usual morning bagel, eat food from the culture and turn breakfast into an experience.
The British Isles are culturally diverse within themselves, but there is no doubt that the full breakfast is what the location is famous for. Depending on where you are you'll hear that it is a full English breakfast or a full Scottish breakfast, or a full Irish breakfast. Many call this dish a fry-up and the serving size is no joke, unless you are blessed with a stomach that doesn't get overly full, don't plan on needing a big lunch later in the day.
The ingredients differ throughout the British Isles but the essence is the same. Fried eggs are paired with sausage and bacon. The bacon is not what you're used to eating in the United States, they do have our fatty version of the delicious meat but they call that "streaky bacon." Theirs is more like a fattier thin Canadian bacon. With that you will likely get baked beans, sometimes sautéed mushrooms are served instead. Don't be surprised if you get some black pudding and a starch like Scotland's "tattie scones" which are scones made out of potato. Don't knock the combo until you try it. Ask for "brown sauce" as your condiment.
If you're in a rush get a bacon or sausage sandwich/butty. Don't skip the brown sauce and you'll get a taste of the local flavor. If you feel like this is too heavy of a meal for the morning, wait and have it for lunch. You can often find full breakfasts served until late in the day.
A French breakfast is a lot lighter fare and is definitely not gluten-free friendly. It would be safe to say that the French consider their coffee to be just as important as the food it is paired with. Tartines are toast with jam and favored by many diners for its simplicity. Or go for a fresh baked piece of baguette and dollop some butter on it to eat while scanning your notes for that big presentation. Adding fresh fruit and yogurt is a common practice as well.
If you’re looking for something flakey and crumbly, you’re in the right place. It is France after all! Pain au chocolat are delicious chocolate filled croissants popular with kids and anyone with a sweet tooth. Weekends are commonly full of croissant eating and coffee drinking. Remember that if you order a café in French restaurant, you will be served a strong espresso. If you don’t want espresso ask for “café au lait” which is coffee with milk. Breakfast might be light, but that’s only because the French like to make sure they have room for a leisurely multi-course lunch in the afternoon.
If your travels take you to Colombia, you are in for a treat if you order the right breakfast. Calentado, which translates to “heated,” is a very traditional breakfast from the Andes region of Colombia. Calentado is comprised of heated rice and beans along with other components. Since rice and beans are a food staple in this country, this traditional meal was born from reusing leftovers the following morning.
The rice and beans are paired with ground beef and sometimes other vegetables. The meal is paired with a flavorful chorizo sausage and a fried egg. Some people love to add extra flavor to the beans and rice by adding hogao, which is a criollo slow-cooked sauce sauce made from onions, green onions, tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, and garlic. As extra starch you might be lucky enough to get an arepa, which is a cornmeal patty (often containing cheese). Trying this dish only once isn’t enough, because it is based on the idea of mixing together leftovers there are countless flavors of calentado out there to try.
India is huge and has immense cultural diversity. There are over 22 regional languages in India and is the world’s second most populous country. Don’t expect uniformity when traveling in India, especially when it comes to food. Breakfast in many parts of India is very similar to other foods eaten throughout the day. Here I’m touching on one of my favorite breakfast foods that comes from this region of India.
Bedmi-aloo and nagori-halwa are two dishes that are eaten as one meal. It is a popular breakfast in Delhi and even more popular in the in the winter season. If you’re a fan of sweet and savory, this is the meal for you. Bedmi-aloo makes up the savory portion of the dish. It is a deep fried bread that comes out puffy and crispy on the outside. This gets paired with aloo sabzi. Aloo sabziis a spicy potato composed of flavors such as peanuts, sesame seeds, turmeric powder, chilli powder, curd, coriander, ginger, garlic, and sugar.
The sweet part of the meal comes from the nagori-halwa. Nagori is a puri (unleavened deep-fried bread) made from ghee and semolina. Nagori is smaller than bedmi. You’ll get a nice sweetness from the suji halwa which is popular sweet dish made from ghee, semolina flour, water, and sugar. The end result is a sweet porridge like dish that is delectable when eaten with the bread.
I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Ghana, yet. However, one of my good friends in graduate school was from Ghana and we would beg her for her recipes because everything she made was to die for. Big breakfasts aren’t particularly common in urban Ghana. Just like everywhere else in the world. when people are living city lifestyles and short on time they might reach for toast and coffee instead of sitting down for a meal full of tradition and flavor. That doesn’t mean traditional food doesn’t exist.
Think about ordering oto if you can find it. Oto is a real treat and is a sacred meal that is favored by women on their wedding days. When oto is prepared for a ceremony, such as a wedding, it is made only with food products that are native to Ghana. Oto’s primary ingredients are salt, tomatoes, onion, yam, palm or dzomi oil, and eggs. If it’s being made traditionally the onions and tomatoes are left out. When served you get a hard-boiled egg atop the yam mixture.
As someone who absolutely loves mashed potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, and squash I can tell you this meal is a potato lover’s delight (even though a yam is not a potato). When you eat this dish you know you are partaking in a meal that holds traditional value in an area of the world rich with history.
German breakfast mirrors the wider tradition of the European continental breakfast. Germany’s typical early morning meal consists of a variety of ‘pickable’ items, like appetizers at cocktail hour. Here you’ll find an assortment of breads along with jams, marmalades, and honey for spreading. If you need a little more sustenance than that in the morning, you’re in luck, because a traditional breakfast will also include a selection of sliced cheeses and cold cut meats. The meats will often be the basics like ham and salami, but sometimes you will be offered some of Germany’s famous brawtwurst. Don’t be surprised if you also get offered an egg, fruit, tomatoes, or yogurt. To wash it all down you don’t have to give up your caffeine, the Germans love a strong cup of coffee. If you order Frühstück (breakfast)in a restaurant, you may be given a unique extra like a folded up crepe or poached egg. Hotels often offer breakfast as part of the nightly rate, keep your eyes open for anything that says “Frühstück inbegriffen” which means “Breakfast included.”
The breakfast traditions can vary by region. Second breakfast is not only something for the hobbits of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Bavaria also has zweites Frühstück. It is lighter than either breakfast or lunch and is served around 10:30 in the morning. This meal consists of either pastries, sausages, and coffee, or a combination pretzels, sausages, mustard, and beer.
Argentines are not big eaters in the morning. The locals start their day like many Americans with toast, coffee, and cornflakes. An hour or two later they will follow it up with maté and facturas(pastries). Breakfast is eaten alone but the follow up of facturas and maté is best enjoyed in the company of others. The most popular pastries are medialunas, which translates to “half-moons” and describes their shape. Medialunas look like a crescent roll or a small croissant and there are two kinds of them: one is made with grasa (fat) and the other with manteca(butter). Medialuna de manteca is thick and sweet while the medialuna de grasa is a more delicate and flakey pastry with a less sweet flavor. There are many other kinds of facturas but medialunas are by far the most popular. You can get facturas with different flavors, like chocolate, sugar, jam, or dulce de leche. Dulce de leche is sweet and spreadable. It’s made by simmering sweetened milk until it takes on the proper consistency.
No one makes their own facturas, everyone goes to buy them and gets a dozen at a time to share with friends. This second breakfast of sorts is a social meal. Maté is a strong herbal tea of dried yerba maté leaves. It’s a traditional caffeinated drink from South America that is served from a gourd and sipped through a filtering bombilla straw. Argentines prefer their maté sweet, so they will add dried stevia or sugar to the mix. To prepare the drink, the gourd is filled with the leaves and evenly dispersed. Then hot, but not boiling, water is added. Each person takes a turn draining the cup of its water, and every new drinker gets a refill. Everyone shares the same cup and straw, it is important to understand that maté in Argentina is an incredibly important social activity.
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Food – and all of the surrounding rituals and traditions – can always tell us a little something about the culture. Social structure is reflected through the ways in which food is prepared, served, and consumed.
Published 12 December 2016
Updated 31 January 2018
By Kristance Harlow