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The Cultural Standards of Breakfast


BadRabbit
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I am a southern American and thus have a very specific idea of what breakfast should be. I need eggs, some form of cured pork, a bread item, and preferably grits. Period.

Having pastries or a brioche muffin is about as far as I can go outside my norm and still enjoy it. I view cereal as something I can eat in addition to the eggs etc... if I'm really hungry. I never eat cereal by itself at breakfast time.

I am a very adventurous eater and enjoy foods from all over the world yet I find myself completely intransigent at breakfast time. It is completely offputting to me to think about having soup (as some Asian cultures do) or beans (like is often seen in the UK) at that time of day. I didn't even eat cold pizza for breakfast as many of my friends in college did.

I know I'm not alone in this because when talking to friends who are coming back from abroad, they always mention how much they missed breakfast and don't understand how this or that culture eats _______ for breakfast.

Why is breakfast different from other meals in terms of people's willingness to try something outside their regional norm?

Edited to Clarify

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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If you were raised on it, you will continue eating it.

Beans in the UK is no different for grits in South/Southeastern US.

I understand that but that's not the point I'm making. I didn't grow up eating Rogan Josh yet I enjoy it immensely at dinner. Breakfast is the only meal where I don't like change and new things and I've noticed this same attitude in others.

Also as a side note, why is breakfast so much less varied than other meals? I know that's not the case in every culture but it certainly is in a lot of them.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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Your guess is as good as mine, but I imagine that breakfast habits evolved around some conjunction of available ingredients, and fashion.

If I have much more than coffee for breakfast, all I can do afterwards is take a long and unrefreshing nap.

I grew up in Italy (where the popular breakfast in cities is still coffee and a croissant), and that might explain it, if it weren't for the fact that we moved back to the US before my parents even permitted me to drink coffee, and I was routinely required to force a bowl's worth of granola into my still-sleeping stomach before heading off to school each morning.

The Italians I know who are health conscious (which is, to some extent, fashion) may swap their croissant for a yogurt/fruit, perhaps even some muesli.

I had several German boyfriends, most of whom were old enough to feel that the only breakfast robust enough to get one going had to involve at least one species of sausage, a cereal (muesli in the summer, oatmeal in the winter), much bread, much coffee, juice of some sort, a pastry or two to fill up any remaining gaps, and, at weekends, perhaps a glass of beer. When I feebly asked whether this programme was usual, I was assured that this was the city version. The farmer's version typically took place several hours earlier, and was much more substantial. That was as much information as I was able to extract regarding the history of traditonal German breakfasts (visiting a friend in Berlin, however, I was relieved to find that she regarded such spreads as old-fashioned, and stuck to a coffee and a croissant).

In Denmark, old-school is similar to the traditional German breakfast (again, availability), modern is something by Kellogs, usually (fashion).

The willingness (or lack of it) to breakfast differently than usual probably varies a good deal from person to person (and perhaps how much of a morning person he or she is). Although the people I know (all of whom are at least partly Westernized) seem to go for something fairly close to their accustomed breakfasts when travelling, I don't recall ever seeing any of them minding very much about the absence of a particular breakfast food.

Perhaps certain cultures set more store than others on the importance of breakfast?

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No idea if this has anything to do with how you feel but for me the weather has a lot to do with how I go about breakfast. If I am in Turkey then olives, cheese, salad and fruit are a joy eaten in the sun, same in the more Southern parts of France etc. In the,ever, dreich grey of our lovely Island they do not taste good at all, more comfort is needed in the form of black pud and eggs, potato scones etc. Or, maybe because we have just woken up we need the 'known' before we face the 'unknown' LOL.

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Or, maybe because we have just woken up we need the 'known' before we face the 'unknown' LOL.

I think that's it in a nutshell. When it comes time to break the long night's fast, nobody is in much of a mood to experiment.

Just waking up and starting the day requires physical and mental energy enough.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Perhaps it is partly because of the very routine nature of breakfast for most people. I get up, pour out a bowl of granola (which I make), slice a banana, eat it. Go to work. At this time of day I am not looking for anything more complicated than that. On the weekend, we'll go to a diner, get diner food. Or I might make waffles, or some such thing. So it's kind of a home-comfort thing. Very familiar. Dinner can be anything. I have noticed that we have all manner of restaurants around here, serving whatever kind of Asian, European, South American (my own neighborhood hosts a lot of Brazilians), etc., food you want, but few of those places are open earlier than lunch. Presumably some would if they thought there'd be demand for it. But there isn't.

It's been a long time since I've had the opportunity to travel internationally, but I'd like to think that if I did, I'd be a little more adventurous on someone else's home turf.

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Or, maybe because we have just woken up we need the 'known' before we face the 'unknown' LOL.

I think that's it in a nutshell. When it comes time to break the long night's fast, nobody is in much of a mood to experiment.

Just waking up and starting the day requires physical and mental energy enough.

That makes sense. That also might explain why a lot of American breakfasts are just different permutations of about 5 ingredients. When you think about it, pancakes and sausage, a ham omelet with toast, waffles with a side of bacon, eggs Benedict, and a bacon egg and cheese biscuit are all basically just pork, eggs, flour, fat, and leavening (with seasonings and sometimes cheese).

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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I grew up in a mix of west and east cultures, most of the time my breakfast can revolve around eggs and toast, with some steam vegetable or congee. It is a bit weird seeing everything all fusioned up sometimes but I guess I am used to it by now. Makes for an interesting kitchen space though.

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When we visited my late brother-in-law in Denmark I was appalled to wake up to a breakfast of strong, stinky cheese, bread fresh from the bakery and an assortment of high-end jams and spreads. By the time I left, two weeks later, I couldn't think of a better way to start the day. We still enjoy this breakfast often. However, I recall as if were yesterday, walking along the canal in Copenhagen when the smell of bacon frying drifted down from some apartment building. No smell has ever stuck in my mind as that one did. I might have killed for a slice of bacon on that morning. :laugh:

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Or, maybe because we have just woken up we need the 'known' before we face the 'unknown' LOL.

I think that's it in a nutshell. When it comes time to break the long night's fast, nobody is in much of a mood to experiment.

Just waking up and starting the day requires physical and mental energy enough.

I think that for some folks (at least for me, that is) it's a matter of what doesn't feel gross in the tummy first thing in the morning and sticking with it. I know that if I eat a heaping pile of bacon, eggs, sausages, and pancakes as soon as I get out of bed, all that fat and salt will make me feel sick for the rest of the day. I need a good few hours before handling anything more adventurous than a slice of toast or bagel and tea/coffee. This means sticking to the the tried & true 5 days out of the week. Weekends are for experimenting.

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I only have coffee in the morning. That's all I can face.

I don't get hungry until at least an hour after I wake up.

Occasionally I eat a bagel at my desk, but usually lunch is the first meal of the day for me on weekdays.

I love eating breakfast on weekends, but it's usually at "brunch" times - 1 or 2 PM at the earliest, having woken between noon and 1.

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Why is breakfast different from other meals in terms of people's willingness to try something outside their regional norm?

Good question. I've wondered about this myself. I was thinking it was a US thing but recently read this WSJ blog post: "Why Breakfast Matters to Chinese Tourists", which concludes with the answer to your question: "After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day"

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I realise that for most people, familiar food is better in the morning. Also, don't forget that a large number of people don't really like eating much in the morning full stop! I was wondering though, thinking about the people who do like to experiment and enjoy more unusual foods for breakfast, is this part of a more general food-related adventurous-ness? Do these people tend to be more adventurous when it comes to food than others at all meals of the day? Or is it just a quirk?

For instance, I would consider myself an adventurous breakfaster. I live in England and am 3/4 English, yet my breakfast of choice is something savoury and spicy from India. This is often something South Indian. However, I also enjoy occaisionally experimenting with East Asian breakfasts, from miso soup and rice to congee and noodle soups. Back when I ate meat and fish, I was very fond of the famous Trinidadian breakfast buljol (sweet peppers, onions, chillies and salt fish) and bake, and wouldn't say no to a fry up either. Fried halloumi with spinach and tomatoes for breakfast? Yes please! Labneh, pide, olives and veg crudites for breakfast? Definitely! Churros and thick chocolate? Absolutely! When I was younger and less discerning, leftover takeaway was a welcome breakfast. I also remember my brother and I getting up very early on some Summer mornings and making "sorbet" by freezing pineapple juice or cans of fizzy drink, and eating it for breakfast!

My point is, I am as adventurous at breakfast as any other meal. Am I alone? Judging by my tastes and what I am willing to try, I would say that I am a more adventurous eater than the majority of people I know. I have tried and enjoyed durian, I am a lover of bittergourd, I find the fermented cassava porridge gari to be quite pleasent actually...in fact it's only my vegetarianism that stops me from eating pretty much everything!

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Is it really about familiarity since at a hotel breakfast people tend to sample pretty much everything? Or maybe there is a need to differentiate between a hotel breakfast where it is more of a social gathering, and your own home...

At the hotel where I work at we have a lot of Spanish traditional breakfast items, your sweet pastries and sauces and such, and they are among the 'top-selling' items during breakfast. Also Tortilla Española is very popular even though you wouldn't see many Spaniards having it for breakfast.

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I'll never forget the astonishment of the breakfast Mrs. Ridder, mother of my friend Edith, served to us after a sleepover. Whaaaaa? Open faced sandwiches, made by each family member, on rye or rusks. There were plates of cold cuts, lots of Gouda, applesauce and hagelslag -- chocolate shot. Her brothers sprinkled the hagelslag on Gouda and salami.

This was exotic, and back then I'd have preferred a bowl of Cheerios. The thing was, the Ridder kids had lived in Indonesia, not Holland, for most of their lives, thence to Canada. That "weird breakfast" went with them.

As a protein for breakfast person now, I think Mrs. Ridder and her compatriots got it right -- just hold the hagelslag. ( I love the Dutch language!)

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Heheh. Sunrise is more traditional than either electric light or Television, eh ?

I think Blether is right on target. The gret majority of the world's people awake, or at least start to awake, as daylight arrives. Because of the psychological significance of awakening in general (even if it's not in the morning)--"I'm still alive," It's a new day," etc.--I'm guessing that by association the first meal of the day takes on added significance and so becomes a kind of ritual.

Edited by Alex (log)

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For me, breakfast food has just gotta be simple, unless someone else is doing the cooking! I can eat just about anything for breakfast but I don't, because I just got up and I'm in no mood to do a lot of fancy cooking. I think that is the case for most people therefore they just stick with what they know. Also, since it's the first meal of the day, you just want to stick with the food that you know will sustain you and not give you any stomach issues.

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Along the same lines as what has been mentioned before, it seems to me that likely most of us grew up with a good deal less variety at breakfast than at dinner; it is not unusual to eat the same thing, or at least from the samae small group of things, daily for breakfast, when we would not think of that sort of repetition at lunch or dinner. I had Chinese takeout earlier this week for dinner; I won't likely want Chinese takeout again for a couple of weeks. I had steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast yesterday; I'll likely have steel-cut oatmeal at least twice more in the next five days, with toast or a bagel the other days.

Of course, all bets are off when one is referring to teenagers like mine, who would eat pizza four nights a week and burgers the other three. Or vice versa.

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I grew up with a mom who liked cold leftovers for breakfast (pre microwave days) - so my conceptions are quite fluid. Plus the grandparents just did coffee and toast really early so if we were sleeping over as was often the case, the next meal was Jausen, which was bread with cold cuts type of stuff around 10 or so.

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When we travel, more often than not we bring back breakfast traditions from a country more than anything else.

I think we've probably had more traditional "English" breakfasts in the last decade than traditional "American" ones. And I would have traditional German breakfast every day if I had access to a good delikatessen.

Lately I've had a hankerin' for the Taiwan big breakfast of dumplings, passion fruit, bratwurst (go figure) and tea (and coffee).

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If you were raised on it, you will continue eating it.

Beans in the UK is no different for grits in South/Southeastern US.

I understand that but that's not the point I'm making. I didn't grow up eating Rogan Josh yet I enjoy it immensely at dinner. Breakfast is the only meal where I don't like change and new things and I've noticed this same attitude in others.

Also as a side note, why is breakfast so much less varied than other meals? I know that's not the case in every culture but it certainly is in a lot of them.

Actually, the point I was trying to make was, asking why people eat certain things for breakfast is like asking why certain regions have a particular cuisine, it is what is readily available. Culture influences food immensely, You eat grits for breakfast because culture modeled that, and cereals a breakfast food. Plus, certain foods contain certain vitamins and such that promote a healthy start to the day.

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If you were raised on it, you will continue eating it.

Beans in the UK is no different for grits in South/Southeastern US.

I understand that but that's not the point I'm making. I didn't grow up eating Rogan Josh yet I enjoy it immensely at dinner. Breakfast is the only meal where I don't like change and new things and I've noticed this same attitude in others.

Also as a side note, why is breakfast so much less varied than other meals? I know that's not the case in every culture but it certainly is in a lot of them.

Actually, the point I was trying to make was, asking why people eat certain things for breakfast is like asking why certain regions have a particular cuisine, it is what is readily available. Culture influences food immensely, You eat grits for breakfast because culture modeled that, and cereals a breakfast food. Plus, certain foods contain certain vitamins and such that promote a healthy start to the day.

Your point has nothing to do with the original discussion which was not about why breakfast foods are different in different cultures but why people are generally less adventurous at breakfast than they are at other meals.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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