In the last months when we've had the good fortune to be travelling a lot, I've confirmed my belief that breakfast isn't just the most important meal of the day for our health - it's the one that gets people most fractious if they can't have what they like or what they're used to. It doesn't matter what they have for any other meal of the day, but messing with people's breakfasts is a risky business.
This observation is something I've made several times over the years. We've had guests here from England who've grumbled about being given ham and cheese for breakfast instead of cereal with toast and marmalade. Cereal is a pretty rare commodity in the Netherlands, with the exception perhaps of meusli, and marmalade - well that's almost unheard of. Then I've seen other people muttering about the way the French make tea or serve coffee at breakfast time, well tampered with chicory. Of course no one can object to their delicious flaky croissants, but maybe you don't know the Dutch are famous for taking their own food on holiday to France and Spain, and I suspect that the desire to have their own cheesy breakfast is part of it.
I've always chuckled at the mutterers and scoffed at them for their lack of adaptability - that was until I went to Romania and Moldova this summer and found that breakfast there was at best dry and uninteresting and at worst, almost inedible - for my tastes that is.
And much of my disappointment came down to the bread. Isn't it funny how bread can vary so much in different countries? The trouble is that wherever you go, it's generally what's eaten in the morning unless you come from China where they eat rice and can't fathom why anyone would want to eat anything else…yes well. But anyway, back to bread, I just love it (usually) and could eat an entire wholewheat loaf fresh from the oven all by myself - I really could. I also love French baguettes and Italian ciabattas. I even like German rye bread, but my preference is definitely for slices of yummy crusty wholemeal brown.
So imagine my dismay, followed by deep disappointment and then severe disgruntlement when in Romania and Moldova, I couldn't find any kind of brown bread anywhere on any breakfast menu. Everywhere we went, we were only offered white, rather dense and distinctly un-yummy slices of what can best be described as fibrous cardboard. Occasionally, we could get something from the street stalls that was rather like Turkish bread, but then they filled it with odd stuff like cabbage. Yes. Cabbage...
On my first breakfast in Romania, I couldn't even get a cup of coffee. If you wanted it, you had to pre-order, but we didn't know this. Well, scroll down several posts and you will learn that I am not nice to know if I cannot have at least two cups of caffeine laden brew first thing in the morning. What made it worse was that our dining room seemed to be next to an in-house chapel so while we were chewing on our cardboard and swallowing glasses of tepid water (I really cannot stomach tea), a church service started up in the next room complete with chanting. Now I don't have anything against religious services as a rule, but everything has its place and at my breakfast table is not it.
After repeating this (the repast not the church service) for several days, I started being a slightly unhappy bunny. No matter that we had other decent food and often sampled the local fare, I just couldn't get my system used to the sterile way I had to break my fast. I'm ashamed to say I even started becoming a bit petulant and complaining that there was nothing worth eating at all, which was patently not true. But then I realised that I was being a typical mutterer - just like my testy visitors in Holland who couldn't have their cereal.
And why? Because breakfast is…I know, I've said it already, but yes, it's the meal not to be messed with, and I wasn't getting what I wanted, or what I liked. Sound familiar?
So the moral of the story is: when going abroad and it comes to being faced with a less than appealing morning fare…erm…actually, I don't know. Give it up, maybe? Say you're on a diet? Smuggle your own food in? It's a hard one, isn't it?
But what do you think? Was I being pathetic? No, you don't have to answer that, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on this supposedly all important meal of the day. Just don't be too hard on me...