I am one who eats his breakfast gazing at morning glories.
I’m not a religious with a capital “R” person. Most churches have too many rules and don’t read enough books for my taste. But I do appreciate their ritual; the comfort of repeated actions and the accoutrements that make them sacred. For me, the equivalent is breakfast. (I am and always have been a morning person.) Breakfast is my daily ritual and what better event to mark than the potential of another day.
Weekday or weekend, alone or with my husband, I move steadily from bed to the kitchen counter to prepare the meal. I scan my mental state—is it a sweet or savory morning? Will I dutifully dispatch leftovers or start fresh. Will I treat myself to a one-egg puff pancake or be good with a lean slice of toast and a bowl of yogurt? Or is it a feast day—do I have time to make grits or waffles, or some other carbo-loading disaster that makes my husband want to nap after breakfast?
I like meals with courses, so even on weekday I make yogurt, fruit, and bread.
My altar is clean. The counter is uncluttered by shopping lists, cracked open cookbooks, and heaven forbid, dirty dishes. Each day is new, we start with potential that may turn into a parking ticket, torn stocking or leaking lunch bag, but at the crack of dawn, is still pure. I assemble ingredients almost by rote—yogurt, homemade granola, a slice of toast, coffee, an apple. While the cat drinks from the faucet, I might set an egg to cook, promptly move through the shower and make it out just in time to let it cool while I toast the bread and make the coffee. After a small penance of burnt fingertips, the egg is peeled and breakfast is ready.
I set it out on my particular plate—a small white plate with a golden logo–that I lifted from a restaurant in the Vienna airport. Very bad, I know, but it is my relic of a wonderful trip that included a series of strudel and mélange breakfasts. It is my connection to urbane elegance, drinking coffee with whipped cream in china cups no bigger than your fist, waiters who are professional and don’t tell you their name, pastry that is a specialty of the house and not a soggy afterthought.
Sometimes I make a pilgrimage. When the Farmwomen’s market is open, I park a half mile away and walk into town for an almond croissant. I’m often the only walker in street clothes as suburban pelotons sweep past me. The baker is French, I’ve heard him say he’s here for the money, and his almond croissants are the best—bien cuit, not gasping for crisp under gloppy almond filling. Everything in just the right amount—exercise and pastry.
But some days I’m not ready to venture out and still want something hot and comforting. In my family we call it a puff pancake, but they’re also know as Dutch babies. The recipe is so simple that you can commit it to memory. And the technique is so simple, that even after the roughest night, it’s easy to pull together. Now that I think about it, my puff pancake may be the perfect hangover breakfast–buttery, sweet, light but filling.
Try it yourself.
1 tablespoon salted butter, 1 egg, 1/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup white flour, powdered sugar to taste
In a 450 degree oven, melt the butter in a small baking dish (I use a roughly 6-inch diameter, Chinese sand pot).
While it’s melting, mix together the egg, milk, and flour into a loose and slightly lumpy batter.
Pour the batter into the baking dish and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the pancake is puffed and brown. Sprinkle on powdered sugar, turn the oven off, and let the pancake finish while you struggle toward coffee.
To feed two or three people, just double or triple the recipe. On more energetic mornings, saute sliced apples in cinnamon, sugar, and butter. On summer mornings, sprinkle with mushed blueberries or sliced peaches. On no occasion, use maple syrup. These are not that.