What makes a good breakfast? What’s the best thing to eat to get your day off to a great start? All around the world, people have come up with different answers to this most basic of human questions. Even within a single country, answers often vary quite widely. Are you a fruit and carbs person? A smoothie lover? Perhaps you’re more of a “black coffee and don’t talk to me” type?
Americans have bacon and eggs. The beloved Brits have their “Full English,” packed with all kinds of meat, mushrooms, eggs, and of course the classic baked beans. Italians break their fasts in a slightly more restrained and elegant fashion with their cornetto (jam filled croissant) and cappuccino, while Germans are all business with their bread rolls, spreads, and cold cuts.
What exactly makes a breakfast of champions?
Further afield, in the morning hours, you will find most inhabitants of Cambodia and Vietnam reaching for their soup bowls—noodle soup being the most popular morning fare on that side of the world. And the Australians alienate many with their love of vegemite on toast, vegemite being, of course, the strongly-flavored fermented yeast extract they so lovingly spread across their bread.
But we’re not even close to being done yet. Mexicans are known to take their desayunos extremely seriously: chilaquiles, triangles of corn tortillas fried crisp, then stewed in a spicy sauce and served with beans and eggs or shredded chicken. Another legendary Mexican breakfast is the fabled guajolota, named after the indigenous word for a turkey. This is a Mexican corn pastry stuffed inside a bread roll—nothing short of a soft, pillowy carbohydrate dream.
Indeed, all over the world, we find different answers to the central question being pondered here, indeed that central question that we all as ourselves almost every day: what should I eat for breakfast?
Savory breakfast: the carbohydrate dream
One of the most interesting answers comes from the subcontinent of India. The paratha is a greasy flatbread that flakes off into crisp layers as you eat it. They can be eaten at every meal, but the breakfast table is where they really shine. For breakfast, the paratha is often stuffed with a delicious spiced potato mixture, allowing the crisp outer layers to contrast beautifully with the spicy, soft potatoes. Parathas are often served with a colorful array of sauces and chutneys: you may find a spicy chili sauce, a sweeter coconut sauce, or sometimes a mint-based chutney. But they are also delicious eaten plain or just with these simple sauces, and indeed with the right recipe, parathas are dead easy to make.
Indeed, if there’s a common line between almost all of these breakfasts, it’s that carbohydrates play a central role. Indeed, for many breakfasts, they make up the entire thing. For instance, there is the aforementioned guajolota in Mexico, while in Spain, it’s not unusual to eat a bocadillo de tortilla, which consists of a roll stuffed with a potato omelette. It’s also not only Spanish speakers who have this carb obsession: in Southeastern Europe as well, the carb story is much the same: a börek makes a popular breakfast, a flaky pastry stuffed with potato, and all across Europe and North America, millions of people sit down to a bowl of cereal or müsli for breakfast.
Breakfast muffins: all about these tiny cakes
Muffins are another popular breakfast food, a food that seems complicated at first, but is actually one of the easiest breakfasts to make. Indeed, though baking is sometimes quite justifiably seen as a complicated and fussy process, it’s possible to make muffins without baking powder. Though they are unleavened, these muffins still come out fluffy, sweet, and, thanks to the eggs, just filling enough to keep you going until lunchtime comes around.
The recipe above is plain, but benefits from elaboration. Mash a ripe banana and add it to the batter along with some walnuts and a little cinnamon and you’ve got banana nut muffins! A few frozen berries (blueberry muffins are always a winner) and some lemon zest will get you some great results. Even unconventional things like cottage cheese can add something special to this recipe, which amounts to a blank canvas waiting for paint.
Jellies, jams, and preserves: the science of old fruit
One popular breakfast food is fruit preserves: jellies, jams, and marmalades that preserve fruits when they’re at their height of freshness so that they can be opened up and enjoyed at a later date. But to the home chef, making fruit preserves at home can seem overly complicated and difficult, requiring a chemist’s approach to food preparation. But it’s easy to make great jams without lots of esoteric additives—for example, this fantastic mandarin jam made without pectin.
All around the world, people have answered the breakfast question in different ways. Though the precise science of what exactly to eat for breakfast is still unclear, we hope this gave you some ideas worth waking up to.