Broken by Breakfast

Cultural Differences, French Food

My French husband (we’ll call him MB) and I are staying at an adorable B&B in Burgundy. The rooms are trés charmant, decorated with seasonal accents, the beds are sublime, we have a back patio over-looking the vineyards, there is even the requisite sweet old dog who roams around and lets you pet her. It is the typical French B&B, delightful and sweet, oozing with charm; but like every B&B in France, for me, it has a tragic flaw, and yes, I mean “tragic” like, “Icharus that sun is gonna melt your wings, dude” tragic. A flaw that destroys the very essence of the B&B…

MB and I enter the breakfast room in the morning and seat ourselves at the table, surrounded by the host and other guests. We all smile and say good morning to each other and then I turn to MB and, silently, we have the following conversation through a series of facial expressions:

My look: One eye brow raised, chewing on one side of face.                                                                                                                                           Corresponding words: I told you so.

MB’s look: Flat, steely eyes, and weird plastic smile at the same time.                                                                                                                                                    Corresponding words: Don’t start.

My look: Both eyebrows raised in accusation while appraising the table followed by a slight shoulder shrug.                                                                                                               Corresponding words: But what am I supposed to do with this? (“this” referring to the food)

MB’s look: Broad smile while picking up a huge hunk of baguette slathered with butter and taking an enormous bite.                                                                                                         Corresponding words: Eat it, weirdo, this is ah-mah-zing.

My look: Curled upper lip while disdainfully picking up a container of yogurt.                                                                                                                              Corresponding words: Yogurt is the lamest!

MB’s look: Staring at me intently while licking the top of the yogurt lid.                                                                                                                                                 Corresponding words: Yogurt is dead sexy.

My look: Full-on eye-roll with a slight shake of the head before getting up and leaving the table.                                                                                                                                                      Corresponding words: You are so strange, this breakfast is SUPER disappointing,PEACE!

SCENE

Okay, so I’m pretty sure that people are going to flip out about this but after careful consideration I’ve decided to “out” myself. So…here it is, y’all:

I do not like French breakfasts.

Man, that feels good to say. Bacon and eggs, did you hear that? Finally, we are free!

Now, before you start coming after me with pitchforks, let me clarify; I love croissant and pain au chocolat (I mean flour, butter, and chocolate…what’s not to like) but that is something that I think should be served with breakfast, not as breakfast (I am not talking weekdays but rather weekend and vacation breakfasts). I am a believer in protein for breakfast, protein and some sort of a HSS (hot starch situation).

(What is she even talking about, a hot starch situation? What does that even mean? She is so weird.)

*AHEM*

I want eggs, bacon, sausage, even smoked salmon will do; I want hash browns, GRITS*, and if I am in the Commonwealth, baked beans; I even want some veggies – tomatoes, mushrooms, avocadoes (yes, yes, I know avos are technically a fruit). Basically, I want salt, fat, and heartiness.

However, this is not how breakfast goes down in France. In a French B&B, the breakfast that you pay for is going to be baguette, butter, jam (usually some fabulously delicious, homemade out of the garden variety served in adorable little jars…you know, if you like that sort of thing), yogurt or faisselle**, fruit, and maybe the aforementioned croissant or pain au chocolat. And ça sera tout – that will be all. There will be no eggs or HSS, no meat whatsoever, and while faisselle is technically cheese, it is rather sweet with the consistency of chunky yogurt and is a different experience altogether than typical French cheeses (think cottage cheese). The French simply like their breakfasts to be sweet, light, and room temperature (you will not find a toaster anywhere near a French breakfast).

Now, I realize for some, that this sounds lovely, particularly if you have had a huge, heavy French dinner the night before; but for my weekend breakfast experience to be complete I want something a little more substantial, maybe something that involves hollandaise sauce and multiple courses. Often, my French friends have marveled in surprise when I tell them about breakfast habits of my past:

French Friend: Mais non, ce ne pas possible! Champagne at breakfast?!

Me: Well yeah, when else would you drink a Mimosa? It’s a breakfast drink.”

French Friend: A breakfast drink?

Me: You know, an “eye opener.” In the U.S., we usually start our brunches with booze.

(This is usually when they blink at me, uncomprehending and I being to think, “Wait a minute…is it bad to have a drink first thing in the morning? Are we an entire country of borderline alcoholics? Could this be an unhealthy, worrisome tradition?”)

Me: No, but you don’t understand, it isn’t like a problem or anything, it’s just…um…festive! Yeah, that’s it, it’s festive!

(My French friend continues to look at me, unconvinced.)

Me: Don’t try to get in my head! There is nothing wrong with booze for breakfast! Anyway, you have to have something to get you through all the courses.

French Friend: Courses?

(Now there is intrigue written all over the French friend’s face. Mwahahahahahaha!)

Me: Yeah, for example, in New Orleans brunch is typically a three-course meal***.

French Friend: Mais quoi? C’est incroyable, 3 plates for breakfast.

(I feel an evil streak rising in me as I note the interest and decide to plunge the final nail into the coffin)

Me: Yep, 3 courses, a starter, main and dessert; and at some restaurants you can even have wine pairings.

(That statement usually does it.)

French Friend: But, this is wonderful, this idea. I would like to try this. Really.  Incroyable!

(I smile, basking in the smugness of that rarest of things…a French cultural compliment.)

French Friend: I can’t believe this is American.

(…and, there it is.)

French Friend: Although, you did say this was in Nouvelle Orleans, oui? So really, this is French.

I sigh and wonder if I should try to argue this point, to bring up the simple bread and butter breakfasts of France served with bowls of coffee and nary a menu or champagne cork in sight; or perhaps remind my friend that croissants, that most quintessential French breakfast food, are actually Austrian…but instead, I decide to relent and smile sweetly at my friend.

“Yes,” I say, “Of course. Sometime I’ll have to invite you over for brunch and you can try this Ameri-I mean, French breakfast and see what you think.”

…because after all, no one should be denied a 3-course breakfast and morning booze…particularly, not myself.

* Grits are the most magical of foods and I highly recommend them to everyone.

** Faisselle is actually a big favorite of mine and is often served for dessert at dinners in France or in place of the cheese course. When my Mother was in France a couple of years ago, we woke up to find her raving about the yogurt served for breakfast. “This is the best yogurt I have ever tasted in my life,” she said. We then looked down at the container and told her, “Well, yes, because it isn’t yogurt, it’s cheese!”

*** In case you don’t believe me: http://www.commanderspalace.com/_asset/gx7zq5/3-22-14web.pdf Just reading that menu makes my mouth water.

 

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33 thoughts on “Broken by Breakfast

  1. Did you really have to include the link to Commander’s? I have just spent the last ten minutes in a complete haze, shuffling the menu and trying to decide what I could have if I could somehow be there RIGHT NOW. *longing sigh* I still have the card from the last time I went -with my Mom and Sis- of our maitre de table. I swear he was Robert Duvall. He had us ladies in the palm of his gallant hands. Such happy memories…

    And I’ll just say it: French breakfasts are for tourists. Most French people I know don’t even eat breakfast and it sure isn’t going to be a croissant if they do. Ok, maaaybe on a Sunday. A couple of times a year. Either that or I am living in the wrong household! 😉

    A hotelier here I know (who shall remain nameless) feels no shame at charging 14€ for the breakfast served at his hotel, which consists of: frozen croissants, juice made from a powder and industrial jam scooped into those little cute jars. Oh and a hot beverage.

    I think that I have told you about my favorite brunch dish: grits n’bits waffles (the bits being bacon) with eggs. And a Bloody Mary…because it is festive!

    1. oh sigh, Commanders, Turtle Soup and Eggs Sardou…I miss Nola! My favorite food town in all the world.

      Yeah, breakfast just isn’t an event here which is fine, to each their own but man, I miss my big brekkies. I get SO irritated when I’ve paid a B&B and it is a breakfast like what you described…I mean, what am I paying for? This is why I LOVE B&B’s in the Commonwealth…amazing breakfasts. Yum!

      Okay, I really need to google this grits n bits situation – I am a born and bred Southerner but don’t know of it!

      1. AH yeah, you have sent me this because I remember that I was impressed by the mention of Anson Mills grits and Benton bacon…a clear sign that this is legit. haha! I must try it with my special reserve of grits.

        UM – I did not know that Monoprix had cheddar cheese – that is extremely exciting and I will checking that out forthwith. (they also have Total yogurt which my Greek friends say is the only way to go, got it last week and I must say I agree)

      2. We don’t have the Total yogurt so maybe you won’t have the cheddar…but did I tell you that they also have cottage cheese??? And a Tabasco flavored teriyaki sauce plus a chipolte hot sauce too! Thank goodness Heinz came to France… 🙂

      1. The earliest I have ever had booze was in NOLA, of course. I think something at along the lines of 10am. I had a Dixie beer with my oyster po-boy (yep, for breakfast) at Mother’s because I needed it…hair of the dog…

      2. DUDE. Not cool to bring up Mother’s. Ehrmergerd, what I wouldn’t give for my Mother’s combo of a Ferdi Special and crawfish etouffee. !!!!!!!!!! SAgood.

        p.s. made crawfish etouffee last weekend – found an excellent recipe!

  2. My husband, having grown up in the country, wants your type of breakfast in a B&B and I will tell you where you get them. You have to make sure the B&B is run by Americans or Brits. We once stayed in a B&B run by a lady called Rosemary (well, why not?) in Sologne and Jean Michel is still talking about her breakfast that seemed never-ending. A British friend who has a B&B in the Loire serves up all sorts of goodies, including bacon and eggs.

    I like to have at least an egg for breakfast so I always ask the night before. You must remember though that the French have this thing about soft-boiled eggs always being made with ultra-fresh eggs so make sure you say “oeufs brouillés” or “sur le plat” or they’ll flip out!

    Good luck!

    1. Ah Jean Michel sounds like my husband, who also loves the big brekkies (but then he lived in Australia for 6 years). I do need to start finding B&Bs run by Anglos, I think. It just irritates me to know end to be paying for bread and butter!

      Ha – will keep in the mind the egg advice so as not to freak out my friends! 🙂

  3. Well, I’m not a morning person, so I usually only have brunch on weekends, but I really really really miss them here too! In Montreal, brunches were legendary and always involved eggs and meat (and a dash of fruit on the side). And pancakes. And maple syrup (duh). I actually found real brunch places in Paris (and not the fake brunch that they have, which is just a buffet lunch – no eggs in sight). We can go when you visit!

    1. I feel ya – I mean, I am a morning person but I just drink a smoothie or something for breakfast during the week. It is those weekend getaways or lazy morning breakfasts that drive me bonkers. Mmmm…maple syrup, I’m pretty excited about that. We should definitely check out your brunch place – sounds thrilling!

    1. Thanks so much! Actually, the Burgundy trip was a while back but oh yes, we drank so much yummy stuff! That is definitely my favorite wine region in France. 🙂

  4. I have a French friend who has coffee and two or three biscuits for breakfast. Biscuits! Not fluffy, buttery biscuits, but cookies that come from a box. To me that’s a small dessert or snack. I ain’t eating something from a box for breakfast unless it’s oatmeal or cereal.

    I’m not sure if I’ve tried faisselle—I will look for it next time I’m in the supermarket!

    1. haha, that sounds like my husband who just has coffee and toast with butter…um, whaaaa??? I just don’t get it!

      Faisselle/Fromage Blanc are basically the same thing – good with a bit of sugar or sweet fruit. 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

  5. I thought I was the only one who ever served 3 course breakfasts! Perhaps this New Orleans place is meant to be my spiritual home. I can feel an investigation of this “grits” thing coming on. I can use polenta, right?

  6. “French Friend: I can’t believe this is American.
    (…and, there it is.)”

    I just snickered. Out lout. At work.

    God, you’re funny.

    Also: I looooooooooooooooove German breakfasts. Not only do they have a zillion different kinds of Brotchen (the diminutive of ‘Brot’, or ‘bread’ — so cute), but they have selections of cheese, cured meats, and different spreads (salmon/fish/more meat) to put on them. And lots of salad. And yogurt. And jam. And this thing called ‘Quark’, which is NOT a building-block of matter, but a type of yogurt/creme fraiche. I draw the line at putting meat salad (yup) on my Brotchen, though lard (uh-huh) is really good.

    1. hehe, thanks friend! Yeah, that made me laugh too when I wrote it.

      UM…that sounds amazing! I’ve only ever been in Bavaria and I love their breakfast – there is some white sausage there for breakfast that is amazing and then a liver meat situation that is also awesome. Sounds like I need to get farther in and try this other stuff though! YUM!

  7. You’ll have to try a weekend in England then, it’s actually hard to escape the great British breakfast here. The problem when we go away is that hubby always goes for the ‘full english’ whereas I am more excited to see yogurt and croissants on the menu, so I have that… which means I am absolutely starving by 12 o’clock and hubby has no desire for lunch whatsoever and is more than happy to stroll around for another 2 hours before requiring sustenance. Grrr!

    1. haha – yep, it is important to coordinate on breakfast. MB and I are often the same way but in reverse!

      I’m SO excited that I’m doing an England (Wales mostly) trip this summer and we are staying at B&B’s – I’m going to eat big, fabulous English Brekkies every day!! WOOHOO!

  8. OUI! I either wake up HUNGRY or not at all. If I’m not really hungry, I’ll just have a coffee, but if I’m hungry-hungry, I need BREAKFAST… bacon and eggs. I need something hearty, not a little pot of yogurt and a flaky pastry. I like croissants, just not in place of bacon and eggs 🙂

    1. haha, yeah, exactly, I love a croissant with my bacon, eggs, and grits. Or maybe in croissanwich fashion…yum…croissanwich. I actually, made little mini croissant egg salad sandwiches once for a party here and all the French were amazed, like I was super innovative. HA – if only they knew!

  9. I totally agree! I’ve been living in France for two years. Bread and jam does not a breakfast make! And as for booze, I’m from Wisconsin where your brunch Bloody Mary comes with a beer chaser and, if you’re lucky, a cheese stick.

    1. Um…that sounds amazing. I would like to have a cheese stick to round out all breakfasts from now on. I was just talking about Wisconsin cheese recently, I’ve got to get the French husband to try some! Thanks for reading…I’m so glad I’m not alone on this. 🙂

  10. this is what we made this morning at teamgloria towers in a small (French-style as they say) omelette pan:

    lashings of olive oil, pinch turmeric, bigger pinch of salt, oregano, spinach (this IS L.A – forgive ;-), new potatoes, chopped tomatoes, one egg – scrambled in right at the end.

    YUM!

    oh – and an entire pot of coffee 😉

    (you’re a genius with that whole HSS and the eye-rolling – still *giggling*)

    1. oooooooh, turmeric, I never would think of it at breakfast but what a delightful idea. I am a huge spinach lover myself (a tough sell for the Frenchie in my life) so I think it sounds fab! Will have to try…certainly more exciting than stale bread and butter. haha!

      So glad you enjoyed…there are few things better than HSS. 😉

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