As long as I can remember, I’ve never been a morning person. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen 6AM before, but usually because I’m still up from the night before. My husband is the complete opposite. I’ve seen him go to bed before 9PM, and like clockwork, he’ll wake up at 4:30AM and hit the gym before work. Before I even realize it, it’s 7AM, and he’s done with breakfast and enjoying his third cup of coffee before he’s out the door. One of his biggest complaints though, is having to rush out the door to work without having the chance to linger over his favorite meal, breakfast. If he could, he’d probably eat eggs, bacon, pancakes, waffles, and every other breakfast classic, for lunch and dinner. So when I got married, I had to make a few changes in not only my cooking style, but in my life style as well.
Americans, in general, seem to enjoy big breakfasts. In fact, it’s pretty tough to find a restaurant that doesn’t serve some combination of eggs, toast, potatoes, and bacon. Japan, though, is another story. There, you’ll find pretty much everything BUT a decent breakfast place. When I was little, other than the fancy hotels, the only place we could go for a Sunday brunch was Denny’s or McDonald’s. I remember my father driving my brother and me to McDonald’s for a pancake and potato breakfast. To me, that trip was a fun and delicious treat! These days, it takes a lot for me to go to McDonald’s, like an 8 hour layover in an airport, for example, but I do still adore the idea of going out for breakfast (providing it’s NOT 6AM). There’s just something luxurious about sitting at an outside table in the shade, enjoying the crispness of the morning while someone brings you cup after cup of coffee. It’s always fun to watch my husband read the menu for twenty minutes, only to order the same egg plate every time. The only impact I’ve had on his favorite meal, was to suggest that he order his eggs poached, so he can save some of his grease and oil allotment for the day for the bacon and potatoes. Being new to ‘breakfast culture,’ I must look strange as I ask the waitress what kind of salad they serve, but you would understand if you’ve ever had breakfast in Japan.
If eggs and pancakes are typical American breakfast fare, what makes up a typical Japanese breakfast? If you walk into a Tokyo Denny’s, you’re bound to see this on
the sample menu: Thick toast, an egg and salad. What’s the catch? That’s the Western style breakfast. For some reason, they didn’t get the memo that Westerners don’t typically eat salad for breakfast, (unless you count the sprig of parsley on the side, as salad). But things are different in Japan. I never thought it was peculiar until my husband pointed it out. Another oddity to him was having soup with breakfast. His argument was that breakfast should lay a foundation in your stomach for the day, and watery soup is no kind of foundation. Of course, he says this as he downs his fifth coffee refill. When I say soup, though, most Americans picture chicken noodle or clam chowder, but in Japan, we typically eat miso, which my husband jokingly refers to as ‘swamp water’. Besides swamp water, I remember my brother fueling up for the day with the same cup of corn soup each day.
One of our favorite breakfast places around L.A. is Alcove. The last time we were there, I took advantage of their ‘anything on the menu, any time of the day’ policy and ordered a cobb salad, which shouldn’t seem too strange considering it does have bacon and eggs in it, right? My husband, of course, stuck to his traditional choice with a side of pancakes. That you are not limited to ‘breakfast food’ during breakfast hours makes the Alcove a perfect morning meal restaurant.
While I’m guessing that my Japanese friends won’t be joining me for a cobb salad in the morning, (for their tastes, it’s too big and too ‘blue cheesy’), I know for a fact, that they’d find pancakes, eggs and bacon on the same plate to be a little strange. Why? They’d watch in horror as the syrup from the pancakes oozes its way towards the savory bacon and eggs. While they’ve mastered technology, they haven’t quite figured out a way to enjoy that odd flavor combination of sweet and savory. I guess I won’t be inviting them over for turkey with cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving.