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Breakfast has long been touted as the most important meal of the day. The primary rationale for this tribute is the fact that breakfast is our first sustenance after an extended period of non-nutritive rest. In essence, it is our initial fuel to begin our day. This necessitates certain biological requirements that are not as crucial during other times of the day.
Americans are notorious breakfast skippers. Research suggests that missing breakfast can increase our chances for obesity, diabetes, higher cholesterol, and even a heart attack. It appears that eating breakfast facilitates the stabilization of blood sugar levels which assists in regulating appetite and energy levels. There’s a good argument that even a fatty, sugary doughnut is better than no breakfast at all. Now that’s an argument after my own heart.
So what is a healthy breakfast? A healthy breakfast is a microcosm of a healthy diet: a balance of protein, carbohydrate, and fat. The carbohydrate should contain at least some complex carbohydrates, (e.g., cereals and grains). And yes even fat, albeit in small amounts, is necessary for proper metabolic functioning and regulation of blood sugar levels.
Did you stick with the ultra-traditional eggs, accompanied by some type of meat, potatoes, (grits in the southern US), bread, juice and/or coffee? Or maybe you went the battered route: pancakes, waffles, French toast, or the baked: muffins, bagels, biscuits, scones etc. Or maybe you’ve joined the granola, whole wheat cereal, yogurt and fruit bandwagon. What about beef chow mein with white rice? Well why not? It has protein, complex carbohydrate, some fat, and even vegetables.
Now be honest with me. When you just read beef chow mein did you scowl and think I was nuts? Interestingly, we have more rigid conceptualizations of what is appropriate for breakfast than any other meal. If someone told you they had a tuna steak for lunch or dinner you’d think nothing of it. But if they reported eating it at 7 am you’d think they were a couple tacos short of a combo meal.
There’s no scientific or biological reason why we can’t be as diversified in our breakfast choices as in our other meals. (In Korea, there is no concept of breakfast. Morning foods are not dissimilar from afternoon or evening foods). But yet, in one more example of American food neurosis, we employ a set of capricious guidelines as to what constitutes a “normal” breakfast. Some might say that certain foods “don’t seem to go” at that time of day. I’d argue, like many other American food customs, that we’ve been conditioned to respond that way, as opposed to it being an inherent predisposition. In other words, clams on the half shell don’t taste strange at 7 am because of some reality based conflict between raw mollusk meat and a particular period in the earth’s rotation. It tastes strange because decades of not eating clams for breakfast has conditioned us to recoil at such a practice. As another example, if raw eggs, seaweed and fish were naturally repugnant for breakfast, why don’t the Japanese think so? Clearly breakfast is more about the mind than the palate.
Consider some of these breakfast foods from around the world: In Cameroon omelets sometimes contain sardines. India runs the gamut of rice, lentils, vegetable chutneys, various breads and hot spices. In the Middle East, pita bread, boiled eggs, cheese, olives, and beans are all popular. In Madagascar you can chow down on cornmeal gruel with dried strips of beef. And finally in China, a favorite breakfast feast is Dim Sum, a dazzling array of scrumptious, bite size morsels made from a plethora of ingredients including steamed dumplings, shrimp, rice, pork, fish, chicken feet and other “non-American” breakfast items.
This recipe comes from “Breakfast, Brunch & More: Serious Comfort Food From New Jersey’s best Bed & Breakfasts” by Angela Williams and Lynne Kaplan. Check out Chef Kaplan’s B&B at victoriahouse.net.
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 1 cup sliced bell pepper
• 8 (8-inch) flour tortillas
• 16 pre-cooked asparagus spears
• 2 ½ cups shredded mozzarella
• 1 cup sliced black olives
• 8 eggs, beaten
• 3 cups milk
• 2 tablespoons flour
• Half teaspoon garlic powder
• Few drops hot pepper sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a small microwave-proof bowl microwave the onions and peppers on high for three minutes or until slightly softened. In the center of one tortilla place two asparagus spears, about a ¼ cup of the onion-pepper mixture, ¼ cup of mozzarella, and some of the olives. Roll up the tortilla to form a burrito and place it seem side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, flour, garlic powder and hot pepper sauce. Pour the mixture over the burritos. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until set. Remove from the oven, let stand for ten minutes and serve.
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