The Joys of an American Breakfast

Breakfast excites me in a completely pathetic way. It is the last thing I think about before going to sleep, and the first thing I think about when getting ready for the day. Breakfast doesn’t happen during the week but on the weekends, it should be celebrated.

AMERICAN BREAKFAST VS. GERMANS

Americans do the first meal of the day extremely well! To me it is perfectly clear what an American Breakfast should look like, but my fellow Germans don’t always seem to want to understand the seemingly senseless accumulation of calorific delicacies such as pancakes, bacon, maple syrup, eggs, butter and so on.
Germans are more mindful of the food they consume, a German breakfast is the typical example: it consist of cold cuts, cheeses and jams, together with grainy bread or a selection of grainy breadrolls (in Berlin they’re white, but that’s an exception). There are French influences such as the croissant and the ubiquitous Cafe au lait, in restaurants and cafes they also serve fruit salad and yoghurts. All in all, German breakfast doesn’t involve much cooking or oil and is good for your heart. Muesli is a popular option among Yuppy-Hipster-Media-Creative-Intellectual-Hippie types (who tend to work in offices), the muesli-preparation-process is a ritual that sets the mood for the day at work. Let me explain: If your banana has brown spots and leaves mush on your hands, the day might be a bit… mushy. Worse to come if you happen to spill the milk. Cut yourself whilst peeling an apple = doomsday has come. You see what I mean? I think the Muesli eaters are pretentious and lifestyle-ish, but that’s a topic I’ll save for later.
If done right with all the right ingredients Muesli tastes good and looks pretty much like the bowl I prepared in the office kitchen at 8.30am during my most recent health trip ( I also started making ‘Green Monsters’ then, but I didn’t manage to stick with it):

German Muesli with fresh fruit

PANCAKES

Pancakes need to be at the very top of this list. The thing with Pancakes is that they get topped with whipped butter and large amounts of maple syrup, a dish that leaves the inside of your mouth all rough and your teeth hairy from all the sugar. To counterbalance the sticky sweetness I can only recommend to add a handful of fresh blueberries. This way you get to taste them properly and the acidity helps you survive the sugar shock.

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Fluffy, slightly fatty, sweet and juicy. This is how Pancakes taste when they’re done right. Under no circumstances are they allowed to be thick and spongy – ever! Each individual pancake should leave you aching for more rather than wishing you wouldn’t have had that last bite…
American pancakes with maple syrup are undoubtedly an American breakfast staple and a bit of a cliche, but they’re are worth their inclusion here. I wouldn’t go as far and say they’re easy to make, even with a lot of practice not every batch turns out as perfect as it could be. The science behind making a good pancake isn’t exactly a science but there are a few things to watch out for. Don’t ever overmix the batter once the flower is in and cook them on a low to medium heat.
For speed and a bit of nerdy-fun, you can get yourself a pancake machine, which is a tool that helps you portion the batter when adding it to the pan. This way the pancakes turn out to be perfect small rounds that aren’t to thick for stacking them up. The only drawback is that the pancake machine is rather expensive if you happen to live outside the States.

Pancake recipes are usually interchangeable. Use one that contains buttermilk and baking powder as well as baking soda. Don’t ever overmix the batter and fry in small batches on a griddle or in a pan until golden brown on both sides. Make sure the batter develops little holes when touching the hot surface. This ensures that your pancakes are light and moist and ready to soak up the sickeningly sweet goodness to come.

ImageEGGS BENEDICT

Another favourite of mine are eggs benedict. Poached egg meets sauce hollandaise and tender slices of ham. It’s a bit of a posh dish, one that impresses the parents in-law quite well. Here, it is the chunky English Muffin that soaks up the buttery sauce that makes me want to stop eating for a week once the dish has been consumed. This is also a beautiful hangover dish, it is salty, fatty and slightly acidic depending on how much lemon juice you add to your hollandaise. If you manage to get up and cook this for yourself after a big night out, you deserve to go back to bed and eat as much as you can and not move a single muscle for the rest of the day.
Here’s a picture of the English Muffins we baked at home a few weeks ago:
English Muffins

American Breakfast wouldn’t be complete without cereals, the problem is, I really don’t feel passionate about a bowl full of crunchy grain that needs to be washed down with milk. There’s nothing in cereal that entices me, I also don’t know anything about the different flavours available which is why we’re moving on to the next thing on the list:

FRENCH TOAST

Again, this contains eggs and large amounts of butter, what else.. First dipped in egg and sugar then fried and dusted with icing sugar, this delicacy isn’t for the faint hearted or those who are scared of carbs, sugar or fat. I tend to think of this dish as the only dish that deserves some unauthentic pimping.. by that I mean you can get creative with it. You could stuff your french toast with fresh strawberries, toasted almonds and cream or bananas, toffee and pecans, nutella…

HUEVOS RANCHEROS, TACOS ETC

The Mexican influence in American food is everywhere. Huevos Rancheros is a great example and a great invention. It is a healthy dish and the beans and eggs are an easy foundation for the day. It is also a good dish to prepare from leftovers when you had Mexican food the night before (kind of involves making your own tortillas and stuff… )
The only thing with spicy food for breakfast is my cowardice European stomach that is not quite used to chili or hot sauce in the morning after having had time off for several hours. The European tongue and palate craves sweet things in the morning, but as a hangover cure, I’d settle for Huevos Rancheros any time! This link will lead you to the most competent demonstration of how to make Huevos Rancheros: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/07/huevos-rancheros/

GRITS

I am German and I’m most definitely not an expert on any of the foods I talk about in this post. Grits is probably the dish I know the least about and that’s why I’m kind of getting cold feet here, I have only tried G’s version which basically means that I’ll stick to an explanation of what it is and how it is made.
Grits is a hot cereal mush made with either oatmeal or cream of wheat. You can eat it ‘northern’ style (sugar, butter pat, cream) or ‘southern’ style (butter pat, salt and pepper). Apparently, people only like one or the other. I never had the salty version, but the sugary one is good. It is an energy providing dish, that divides Northerners and Southerners… apparently…

CORNED BEEF HASH

Corned Beef the American way is gooood. It has nothing to do with Spam or the grey stuff they sell in German supermarkets. It is made from Brisket, the hash contains, potatoes, onions, cabbage and tastes extremely satisfying and hearty. I’ve seen this American TV show recently where a guy tested the best corned beef dishes across America and I was stunned by the amount of effort that goes into the dish. I wanted to find a really good video where it is shown how to make it and I found this manly man chef on YouTube, I like him, his style is refreshingly fuss-free (check out the cleaver too):

Now, if I was a coherent journalist I’d continue this post by listing all the other great American Breakfast items such as Omelettes, Waffles or Texan style sausages, but I have a real problem doing so. None of these dishes are truly American to me and any attempt to attribute them to the States would be treason. Sausages are a German institution, Waffles come from Belgium and Omelettes are as French as anything can get. So I am pretty happy to stop right here and call on you to have breakfast the American way.

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