‘I’m not a breakfast guy at all, fortunately,’ Donald Trump explained in a recent interview. ‘I like the lunches but the dinners is what I really like.’
The US president is right. In the English-speaking world, breakfast is a drag. Devotees explain solemnly that it’s the most important meal of the day. It’s certainly the most boring.
In Britain and America, there is rarely any joy in breakfast food and that is deliberate. The puritanical believe that a clean house is godly – and the same is true for their gut. To me, however, it would have been far more unnerving if Trump had said he enjoyed a five-grain bowl every morning, washed down with a glass of wheatgrass. And hold the dairy – almond milk only, please.
The morning is the moment we feel most virtuous – and so we eat accordingly. It is a new day, an opportunity for a new you. If you start the day right, what could possibly go wrong? A piece of nonsense, but that doesn’t stop us. Sensible office workers boil up free-range eggs. Mothers feed their children milk. Green, lean goddesses crush avocados between their honey-colored thighs and spread the resulting gloop over toast – and Instagram. Increasingly few people go to church; breakfast is a new religion.
During the week, the very busy eat breakfast bars on their way to work. The exceptionally busy have breakfast meetings, and haul you out of bed to join them. You are forced to sit, make important-sounding conversation, and choose between the waffles with crispy bacon (which is a pudding really, so looked down on by breakfast snobs, much like Coco Pops and pancakes) and the egg-white omelette. You end up going for the egg-white omelette, of course, to add to the humiliation.
Last year, the New York Times claimed that London was a city with a taste for porridge and mutton – and was met with resentful laughter. Our food is better than that, we Brits spluttered. How, though, to explain away the fact that Pret a Manger sells over five million pots of porridge in the UK every year? We like to make our mornings as grueling as possible.
America has a lot to answer for. Special K was marketed by Kellogg’s as a low-fat cereal that could help you lose weight. Was there ever a more miserable concept? Tropicana’s orange juice adverts, with their ‘brighter mornings’ message, helped create an army of breakfast guys, marching out in the morning, believing that a small glass of over-processed juice from Florida would somehow transform their lives. Now the orange guy with a house in Florida says he doesn’t believe in breakfast and they are appalled. Does he not realize how irresponsible he is?
The Europeans have always breakfasted better than their more virtue-obsessed British and American cousins. The French spread white creamy butter over their baguettes, before dunking them in jam. The Italians like steaming bowls of chocolate milk and soft buns. The Dutch breakfast staple is ‘hagelslag’ – a piece of white bread piled high with chocolate sprinkles. Even that might convince Trump to become a breakfast guy.