What's for breakfast?

Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day. This is supported by old sayings such as: “Have breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”, to quote just one of many. But is this a myth or a fact?
Strictly speaking, that’s not what we want to decide today. Rather, we want to look beyond our horizons and see what different nationalities choose as their first dish of the day. Whether you prefer hot, cold, spicy or sweet, around the world you can find anything from fat to low-carb, from varied to monotonous, from hearty and princely, to simple and very frugal.

Quick and sweet

France and Italy feature among those countries with the most simple of breakfasts. This might come as something of a surprise, as both countries are famous for their excellent food. “Le petit déjeuner”, the little lunch, as the French call it, consists of coffee or tea, served with a croissant or baguette which is eaten with butter or jam. And many French people like dipping their bread into their coffee.

The Italian “prima colazione” is similarly simple. Many Italians have their breakfast on their way to work, in passing, or standing at the bar, as being served at a table is more expensive in Italy. They take their coffee seriously, preferring espresso or cappuccino, the famous coffee with frothed milk, accompanied by a sweet crescent-shaped pastry known as a “cornetto”. Although this frothy beverage has become a huge international success, the civilized Italian only drinks cappuccino for breakfast, and only before 10 o’clock.

Most Europeans like it savoury

The Spanish, by contrast, tend to avoid eating sweet pastries for breakfast. “Pan con tomate ”, or toast with grated tomato spread, is their choice for a simple, savoury breakfast.

The typical German breakfast tends to be down-to-earth and nothing fancy. It is, of course, served with a hot drink, normally coffee, although tea is increasingly popular. Most Germans still eat fresh bread in the morning, with butter and either cold meat and cheese, or jam and honey.

The typical Hungarian breakfast, meanwhile, is quite similar. It consists of freshly baked bread served with sausages, bacon, cold meat, cheese, pâté and eggs, which can be scrambled, fried or boiled. And a variety of fresh vegetables may also be served. A sweet and simple breakfast consisting of a slice of bread with jam or honey is also very popular, however.
A hop across the Channel brings us to England, and a wide variety of breakfast traditions. The “full English breakfast” is popular throughout Britain and Ireland.

Nowadays, it isn’t eaten every day and often replaces lunch, as the word “full” not only refers to the wide range of food, but also the state you reach if you manage to eat all of it. The full English breakfast consists of bacon and eggs, sausages, grilled tomato, sometimes even hash browns, baked beans and fried mushrooms, together with toast and even jam. A reduced version of this can be found on Polish tables, where a traditional breakfast consists of scrambled eggs topped with kielbasa, a traditional sausage, and potato pancakes.

Porridge or pancakes?

The British also love their porridge for which oats are heated in either milk or water. They share this tradition with many different countries all over the world. Hot cereal or porridge is also very popular in South Africa, where it is often prepared from corn and called “Putu pap” or “Krummelpap”. The Russian version of porridge is called “kasha”, a nourishing broth made from oatmeal, grits or buckwheat, and cooked with butter, milk and sugar.

One man’s porridge is another man’s pancake? Although part of some breakfast combinations, pancakes seem to have lost their appeal as the main component. The USA instantly comes to mind, where they are frequently served with maple syrup or bacon.

The American breakfast has traditionally been very simple, however, consisting of cereals and fruit or fruit juice. Where else can we find pancakes, then? In Russia griddle cakes or blini are very popular. Russians also like to eat “syrniki”, more dumplings than pancakes, made of cottage cheese, eggs, flour and salt or sugar, and eaten with either jam or sour cream, or both.

Some like it hot

To introduce you to some typical hearty breakfasts with a wide variety of spicy dishes, we have chosen Mexico, Turkey and Japan. It seems extraordinary what some nationalities put on their breakfast table. Mexicans have “chilaquiles”, tortilla chips simmered in mole, for their first meal, which are said to be delicious and well worth trying out. “Huevos rancheros” are fried eggs served on lightly fried corn tortillas. They come with a tomato-chili sauce and several side dishes, such as refried beans, Mexican-style rice, and slices of avocado or guacamole. These rancher’s style eggs got their name from being served at mid-morning on rural Mexican farms.

Breakfast tables in Turkey can feature a variety of different dishes. Alongside bread and butter, jam and honey can be feta, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, eggs, and “sucuk”, a spicy Turkish sausage. Turkish tea is the most popular drink at breakfast time.

A Japanese breakfast, in contrast, is as different as a change of continents could be. It traditionally includes miso soup, steamed rice, pickled vegetables, plenty of boiled fish and “tamagoyaki”, a Japanese omelette. With all this sounding so healthy, it is easy to imagine people from Europe or America pulling their hair out at a meal that misses out on anything fried and substantial.

A breakfast trip around the globe wouldn’t be complete without a trip “down under”. In Australia, toast is frequently served with a thick, black spread made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract, which is happily consumed by many. It contains eight percent salt, and various vegetable and spice additives are part of the recipe. Its taste is described as being salty, slightly bitter, malty, and rich in umami, a flavour similar to beef bouillon.

Which is your favourite country for breakfast? Perhaps our world tour has given you some ideas for your next breakfast or your next holiday.

You may also want to have a look at our breakfast recipes in the Good food recipe libary.

Fun facts:

  • The world’s biggest breakfast on record was served to 27,854 people in Germany on 29 May 2005.
  • The biggest bowl of porridge weighed 865 kg and was made in Tula, Russia, on 10 September 2011.
  • The world’s first breakfast cereal was created in 1863 and needed soaking overnight to be edible.