Foie gras with Gwyneth

Our new food columnist laments the dullness of the traditional breakfast
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The Independent Culture
OKAY, so you interrupted a naked foie gras orgy with Gwyneth Paltrow in the vodka bar of Quo Vadis for what? A dusty piece of white toast, and a bowl of soggy cornflakes? Well, of course you're going to be disappointed. Breakfast is the only meal of the day for which you have to get out of bed. That's an awfully big load to put on a single nutritional moment.

In truth, the average breakfast is simply not up to it. It's just too banal, bland, boring and nutritious. One of life's great puzzles is that while we are only too happy to immerse ourselves in the cultures and food habits of exotic, alien outposts at lunch- and dinner-time, we mysteriously revert every morning to the timid and unadventurous creatures we obviously are, physically unable to break the breakfast habits of a lifetime. It's because we are still in our vulnerable post-snooze state, with chin as yet unshaven and mind as yet unsharpened. So the toast-and-cornflakes thing is a conditioned response to the threat of change. We cling to the culturally familiar, knowing the unfamiliar awaits us beyond the kitchen door. The very smallest change ("we're out of butter") is quite enough to throw out the delicate balance of our personal ecosystems.

Even when we blow out (on Sundays or when anywhere near room service), we're totally predictable. "I think I'll live on the edge and have a fried egg, and lots of bacon, and a big fat pork sausage, and fried bread on the side." Well, whoopee-doo. We are now at the stage when bacon 'n' eggs is a thrill. Mind you, back when Yugoslavia was a country whose name you could pronounce, an associate once ordered the big B&E in a Belgrade hotel dining-room. After consulting an undersized bilingual dictionary and an oversized chef, his waiter returned with a plate on which sat a piece of warmed speck (a fatty slab of paprika-spiked smoked pork) and two Russian eggs awash in mayonnaise and dotted with lumpfish roe. "Beckon und ecks," he proclaimed proudly.

In Barcelona, I clung to the well-shod heels of the great chef Isidre Girones Escolano as he trawled the stalls of the famous Mercat de la Boqueria in the wee small hours, marvelling at his ability to combine food marketing with sex (at that hour; anyone can do it later in the day). The more he flirted with the beautifully aged women behind the counters, the lower the prices dropped. Most pleased with his haul, Senor Escolano invited me to join him for "a little breakfast" at his favourite market restaurant, El Turia. With visions of pretty little churros and hot chocolate dancing in my head, I sat down as the sun rose - to a banquet of casseroled snails and pig's trotters; murderously rich, dark, bloody morcilla sausages; crisp, lemony salt cod fritters; a gloriously gluey bathtub of braised tripe; a bottle or two of soft red local wine and coffee corrected with Catalan brandy. Now I know why Catalans don't eat lunch until the middle of the afternoon. They pass out for eight hours after breakfast.

Then there was a simple little breakfast taken at the un-get-in-able Jean Georges restaurant in New York recently, at the foot of the Trump International Tower and Hotel, a spire of blond and bland accommodation. I dithered, as one does, between the scrambled eggs with caviare and vodka cream, popped back into their cute little shells for $21, or the poached eggs with freshly shaved truffles and potato pancakes for $24, then decided to have both. I found that if you drink enough hot Valrhona chocolate along the way, there's no problem.

So what's for breakfast? Roasted vegetables and aioli? Blood pudding on toast? Rice pudding and berries? Sweetcorn fritters with roasted tomatoes? Or ricotta hot cakes with honeycomb butter? It really depends on how much room you have left, after all that foie gras with Gwyneth.

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