About doing breakfast…American style
A few days before I left Scotland, I ‘did breakfast’ with one of my former colleagues from the Evening Times. We dined in Hyndland, in Glasgow’s cosmopolitan west end and it was an extremely pleasant, if slightly un-Scottish, occasion.
‘Let’s do breakfast’ is a very common foodie refrain over here in the States. Hollywood movies and American television shows have for decades been showing us images of people meeting in restaurants for morning coffee – never tea – and doing business deals over breakfast long before the start of the traditional British working day.
It’s only in recent years that Scotland has remotely caught up and even then, it’s only to an extent. In certain parts of certain cities in Scotland it is possible to meet a friend or business acquaintance for breakfast. Going out for a meal still tends to be an evening adventure.
There is, of course, nothing quite like a full Scottish breakfast. Eggs, sausages (links and square), bacon, black pudding, baked beans, potato scones, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, all washed down with several cups of tea. It’s not called a widow-maker for nothing.
For me anyway, these tended to be special occasion breakfasts – a B&B in the Highlands or something similar. At home most of us in Scotland start the day with either cereal, tea and toast, sausage and eggs, a bacon roll, or granola with yogurt and fruit.
Here in the US ‘doing breakfast’ is big business – yoooge business in fact. And the portions are massive. I’ve been out at 7am for breakfast and not been hungry again until close on 6pm. Every breakfast restaurant has a combination of sweet and savoury menu choices which are way off the scale of what’s on offer – so far – in the UK.
The breakfast menu of the Henhouse Café, not far from my house, is a typical example. One item, Mom’s Homemade Pancakes, is followed by the warning ‘may cause drowsiness, they are huge’. In fact, these pancakes are so big they are hanging over the edge of the plate. And the plates are pretty big.
The description of the Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast goes like this. Hawaiian bread dipped in batter, crusted with Graham Crackers, stuffed with strawberry cheesecake filling, topped with whipped cream, strawberries and strawberry syrup. All for $8.29 (£6.32p).
There are umpteen savoury choices including the Grandpa Skillet, which consists of eggs cooked whichever way you choose, sausage, potatoes, mushrooms, red onions, red and green bell peppers, cheese, covered with gravy, and with a portion of toast. It costs $8.99 and, again, the portion you receive is ginormous.
To put it into perspective, the Henhouse Café is one of hundreds of breakfast places to choose from in the Greater Phoenix area. They are on every street corner and they do steady trade every day of the week, but on the weekends be prepared to wait 30 or 60 minutes – and many people do.
I find the whole ‘doing breakfast’ experience a great way to start the day. It doesn’t beat getting up at the crack of dawn and heading for the Scottish hills, but it does make you get out of bed earlier than you otherwise would, and mix with people at a time when you would normally be snoozing.
Breakfasting out has been something of an American tradition for decades – think of old-fashioned diners in movies starring the likes of Joan Crawford and Ray Milland. And nowadays there are entire TV networks devoted to food, with many episodes focused on the bounty of available breakfast fare.
Glasgow and the rest of Scotland has a long way to go to catch up – although I’m not sure it really wants to. I’m not convinced that Scots are ready to embrace the breakfast culture in the same way Americans have. Perhaps there is too much emphasis on the 9-5 working day, maybe it’s just not a Scottish thing.
But judging by my Hyndland experience with my jolly ex-colleague, it’s something I would recommend as a fun and refreshing way to start the day. Just keep the portions down to UK size.