Breakfast

portugal.jpg"I just returned from Lisbon and only have one thing to say - Belem Pasteis de Nata"

Thanks to a reader for reminding me of what is the can't miss taste of Lisbon. While there are wonderful wines, tasty sausages, perfect cups of espresso and crispy salt cod fritters that all deserve your attention, you haven't truly experienced Lisbon until you have made it through the winding labyrinth of the cafe and bakery, Pasteis de Belem, in a pretty waterfront neighborhood of Lisbon and had a few fresh warm pastries.

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I read “Look Homeward, Angel” by Thomas Wolfe the summer I worked as a busboy in a Catskill Hotel. His hero Eugene Gant was a lover of the morning meal but I had to help serve it.

blintzes2.jpgGetting up at six in the morning for the breakfast shift was hell made worse by sharing a room with medical student waiters who were all too willing to roll you out of your bunk and drag you into a cold shower. If you were lucky enough to escape you took a ‘waiter’s bath’: generous helpings of Old Spice; like French nobility at Versailles we stunk under a layer of perfume.

Breakfast in the Catskills was bountiful. If the hotel was kosher it combined the menu of a Second Avenue dairy restaurant with the display case of a King’s Highway Brooklyn bakery. Juices, fruits, sour cream, cottage pot and farmer cheese, blintzes, all manner of eggs, cereals hot and cold, lox, herring in cream or wine sauce, smoked whitefish, cod and kippers. Fresh baked onion rolls, poppy seed rolls, caraway crescents, fruit Danishes, coffee cakes, and last night’s left over strudel.  If the hotel wasn’t Kosher – and the one I worked in wasn’t – then there was the gift of the forbidden animal; bacon and ham.

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pieslice_1.jpgMy Dad used to eat chocolate doughnuts for breakfast until he met my Mom who thought that eating chocolate doughnuts for breakfast was up there with, say, cold pizza.

As a result I can’t imagine eating chocolate doughnuts, at all.  I think breakfast should be confined to breakfast food (or if you’re on a diet, something to skip.)  But someone sent us an apple pie last week that I can imagine having for breakfast (and lunch and dinner).

It’s an amazing apple pie. It comes in the mail, It bakes in the oven in a brown paper bag (I don’t know what the paper bag has to do with anything but it’s true).  And it’s full of apples that are still crunchy and tart and sweet and ambrosia-like.  It has hints of lemon and bites of sweet, a perfect crust and something sort of crumbly.

It’s called the Heritage Apple pie and it’s won a lot of awards and it’s made by hand and shipped to you from their small bakery in Texas (of all places).  And I ate three pieces in two days (and I don’t even eat sweets) and I wish we had one in our kitchen right now.

benny.jpgThey say you always remember your first. And were we talking about a kiss, I remember sitting on a recessed bench filled with orange life jackets on the second level of the Boblo Island ferry leaning towards my sixth grade “girlfriend” Monica. I remember the stench of rotting sea life from the Detroit River and the paprika scent of Better Made BBQ potato chips mingling with the floral waft of Giorgio perfume from her neck (though I suspect it was the Parfums de Coeur Designer Imposters knock-off—after all what 12-year-old can afford the real thing?) as we hesitantly merged our lips. Were we talking about sex, I remember that too, but kissing and telling is one thing, getting laid and doing so is quite another.

What I’m really talking about here is my first Eggs Benedict, the legendary English muffin raft conveying tasty castaways of salty pork and jiggly poached eggs awash in waves of silky hollandaise. And of that, I do not remember my first.

Though, I suspect it was at an all-you-can-eat buffet, one of those restaurant-larder-clearing affairs featuring an orgy of tangled snow-crab legs, a miserable checked-pant-wearing short-order cook manning a butane-fired omelet station and mountains of chartreuse-rinded unripe cantaloupe. That means my first Benedict was likely a steam-table-parched muffin topped with Canadian bacon parchment and a sulfurous over-fried egg mottled with a gloppy, broken mock-hollandaise. Thankfully I subscribe to the idea that you try everything twice, because you never know if the first example was cooked right.

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waffle_iron_sm.jpg Who knew that making waffles could be so fraught with symbolism and stress?  As a single woman, I never gave a thought about waffles, irons or, come to think about it, marriage. One day my mother called to say she couldn't, just couldn't send me a waffle iron. Why? She had read a "Cathy" comic strip where Cathy's mother went on her usual neurotic rant about how she couldn't buy Cathy a waffle iron because waffle irons meant children, which meant marriage, which meant husbands, none of which Cathy had. 

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