Breakfast has always been my favourite meal.
Le petit déjeuner, often shortened in spoken French to ‘le petit déj’ or just ‘p’tit déj’ has a lot to love. First of all, it is is eaten as soon as you wake up (at least for me). No waiting, no socializing. Also, you please yourself. That means you decide what, when and where you have breakfast.
As someone who reads a lot, I figured out early on that one of life’s great pleasures was eating breakfast while reading. Not the stuffy old newspaper that my dad used to hide behind for hours over the breakfast table, but whatever book currently had me in its grip.
From there I soon decided to shift the whole operation back to bed.
At first breakfast in bed was just on weekends. Then I figured: life is short. Why not enjoy your favourite thing every day? So for most of my adult life, and with a few rare exceptions like travelling and having guests over, my p’tit déj is served each morning, by moi, in bed. No matter how early.
Now to the main event: the food. The typical French breakfast, the one we always called ‘continental’ traditionally consists of a bowl of café au lait, a fresh baguette sliced in half and spread with butter and jam. Add in a glass of orange juice and maybe a yoghurt, and you get what the French call ‘petit déjeuner complet’. The first time I saw this menu description in a hotel, I was outraged. ‘Complet’? Basically it was the above, but with croissants as well as bread. How could you call that complete? Where were the bacon and eggs? The toast and cereal? The fresh fruit?
The bacon and eggs belong to the full English, bien évidemment. And the French reserve hot meals for midday and evening. Breakfast is mostly a cold affair, despite the enticing warm fragrance of freshly baked ‘viennoiseries’ (general name for croissants and other delicious pastries like pain au chocolat or pain aux raisins).
When it comes to my own choice of breakfast menu, I try to follow the old adage for healthy eating: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” Unfortunately I usually only get the first two right, and my weight reflects this.
Still, I get a few things right. Balance, for one thing. Most days I have oatmeal or muesli with unsweetened yogurt, nuts and dried fruit. On alternate days I have toast with cheese, an egg or peanut butter. If eating toast, I try to get my favourite bakery loaf: rye with walnuts or raisins.
A few years ago, I switched from juice to fresh fruit for breakfast, one of the best changes I’ve ever made in terms of glycemic index. It’s the only time of day I really enjoy fruit so I try to sneak in at least a couple of servings: kiwis, bananas, citrus, and berries if in season.
Last fall I had some stomach trouble and went off coffee for a while, which led to a change in my normal morning routine. Now for breakfast I have a pot of black tea, full-leaf Darjeeling s’il vous plaît. But I’m back on coffee and so by mid-morning I’ll have a large latté with two shots of espresso!
And because we live in France, and the bakery is just two minutes away, I’ll have croissants on the weekend. With jam, merci. On a tray.
What did you have for breakfast?