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I am not a morning person.
You know how teenagers suddenly become sluggish and lethargic, and can easily sleep past noon? Apparently, they can’t help it. Their brains and bodies are going through such drastic changes that they’re basically wired to sleep all the time.
Now, I am no teenager. (Although I DID get asked for ID last week when buying booze in Asda. *grins… *remembers the salesperson’s aghast face when reading my date of birth on my driving licence, and his stammered apologies… Why was he apologising??)
However, I have never grown out of this teenage phase. Hubby is a much better morning person, thankfully, otherwise our kids would be arriving late to school every day, flapping frenetically, clutching a shrivelled lime and a bag of unpopped corn for their lunch.
This was morning was different though. My daughter is involved in a very special event at school and will be travelling to a concert hall and not returning till late at night. She was thrilled when she heard these plans last week, but then a little frown crossed her face.
“So, if we’re on the coach at lunch time….and at the concert hall at tea time, then I have to take TWO packed meals?” she asked. I agreed that this was so.
“But I have to have a hot meal at least once a day!” she protested. I asked her to consider all the people in the world who would be grateful to have one hot meal a WEEK. She didn’t consider it.
“OH! I know!” she said, “There are THREE meals a day. So I could have a hot breakfast!” She looked very pleased with herself.
And this is how I found myself making bacon, omelette, mushrooms, tomatoes and baked beans at the crack of dawn this morning. To be fair to her, she is perfectly capable of cooking all this herself (she is a young, but perfectly formed food connoisseur) but I didn’t much fancy coming downstairs to a kitchen that looked like the aftermath of a tornado.
A cooked breakfast is surely the pride of England. There’s nothing quite like it. I don’t think I ever feel quite as English as when I’m experiencing another country’s efforts to put on an English cooked breakfast.
Japanese hotels will always give it a good go, but the result can be bizarre and frankly, quite alarming. Once, we stayed at a delightful spa resort hotel in the Japanese mountains. The onsen (hot baths) were stunning – a steaming, fragrant delight; huge pools set outside, where you could soak your tired muscles and gaze at the mountain vista, the forests wreathed in mist. The rooms were comfortable – minimalist, zen and yet luxurious.
The breakfast seemed promising at first. Obviously, the Japanese breakfast buffet was amazingly well-stocked. There were huge vats of fluffy steamed rice, tureens of miso soup, piles of delectable grilled fish fillets, natto (sticky fermented soy beans – the nemesis of many a westerner travelling in Japan, although it’s my favourite!), simmered vegetables in a savoury broth, quivering cubes of tofu swimming in a sharp ponzu sauce… The Japanese were well catered for.
Sadly, in the days of my callow youth, I had not yet developed a taste for Japanese food. I know! Ridiculous, and heartily regretted now.
I breezed past the Japanese banquet and headed straight for the snow-white cloth covered table labelled ‘Western-style Breakfast’. Top tip for travellers in Japan: the only Western-style service you should welcome is the Western-style toilet.
Let’s start with the bread… Not crisp, nutty toast or a brown, crusty roll; rather, a thick (as in two INCHES) slice of pure white, oddly sweet, cotton woolly PRETEND bread and plasticky margarine. Bread is a huge industry in Japan, but they have created their own hybrid bread – characterised by its insanely thick slices, sweet almost vanilla aftertaste, and Stepford-esque uniformity. I remember discovering that bread is available there in packets of…one slice. One.
I found that hilarious at first, and then suddenly, it seemed unbearably sad.
Anyway, moving on. Bacon and eggs – the spirits lift. But no! It isn’t actually bacon – it’s perfectly semi-circular slices of pink ham. Puzzling... Though not as puzzling as the crock of milky, thick creamed corn soup.
Look… a tempting pile of pristine boiled eggs. But when you crack them, instead of a shiny plump hardboiled egg, a semi-transparent, gelatinous blob slops onto the plate. It was, in fact, onsen tamago – which translates as ‘bath egg’; it basically gets cooked as much as it would if you took an egg into the bath with you. Not much, in other words. Raw eggs are a common breakfast in Japan, cracked over rice and sometimes eaten with a dash of soy sauce. This wasn’t raw though – it was semi-cooked… Semi-raw, if you’re a ‘glass half empty’ kinda person.
I recovered from my dismay and continued to investigate the buffet. Silver salvers of lettuce, sliced tomatoes, onions, melon, a bowl of spinach…
Hm. A filigree platter of chips (French fries). And is that….? Is that….? Wow, it is. It’s a dish full of … er…spaghetti and meatballs, accompanied by a platter of mini frankfurters.
I am recounting an experience from a while back – maybe 15 years ago – and things have obviously changed in Japan. However, I still wholeheartedly believe that you won’t find a proper English breakfast anywhere. After all, if you load a plate in the manner of the picture above, most native Japanese, with their dainty appetites and health-conscious obsession, would probably feel quite faint – and that’s BEFORE eating it.
No such qualms in this house. After all, this meal has to last my daughter until tomorrow’s next hot meal!
Note: Full credit to Hubby for getting up at 6.30am, making the packed lunches, taking Sleepy Son to the bus stop, and concocting the delicious kale smoothie in the photo above.
He's a morning person.