An Ode To Breakfast
by Nicole Freire
Here is a photograph, taken over the holiday weekend, featuring my fantastic breakfast. If I had to rank meals in order of how excited they make me, breakfast would be number one. I don't really know how to rank lunch and dinner, because, eh, they're not breakfast.
The late night bowl of ice cream however, rates right up there with breakfast.
The most important thing about a really good breakfast is that it takes place in a diner. I give extra points for diners that serve breakfast all day long, because my disappointment at being told that, "we're no longer serving breakfast but you can have lunch" is a very sad thing to behold. Once I even broke into tears.
I guess I cry easily.
But back to breakfast. You can see that I had eggs (over medium), hash browns, three or four strips of bacon (it's a generous diner), hot chocolate (since I'm off the coffee), and yes, three blueberry pancakes. When I asked if I could substitute regular pancakes for blueberry pancakes (I guess it goes without saying that I'm one of those restaurant patrons who will always ask for some sort of substitution) the waitress hemmed and hawed and then said, "Well, blueberries are expensive, so it'll be 3 dollars extra."
Of course I said, "Oh that's fine! Bring on the blueberries!"
You can make good breakfasts at home, but it's not the same. Unless you happen to live with a short order cook, asking for a dozen combinations of breakfast food is just bad form and will usually lead to the cook grumbling about how she/he is not a chef and will only make one thing for breakfast.
Breakfast at our house usually consists of me tossing four boxes of cereal on the table, some bowls and spoons, and a fair amount of yelling at my children because they have to get up and get dressed NOW otherwise we will be late for school and work and please don't forget to brush your teeth and rinse the milk out of your cereal bowl.
But oh, diners. You can order eggs and grits and six pieces of sausage. Or pancakes with hash browns and scrambled eggs and bacon, but not cooked too stiff, could you make the bacon cooked just until the bacon is a little bit limp?
Also, there's just something cozy about diners. There's not much talking because people have not yet had enough coffee and they're busy dunking their toast into their eggs and asking for ketchup and Tabasco sauce. It's one big breakfast community where everybody is reading the paper and always saying yes to more coffee.
My favorite diner right now is the Farmer Boy Restaurant on upper State Street. There used to be a shoe store called Shoetown next door but they've gone out of business. There's a 7-11 across the street. Look it up on Mapquest. Isn't that what computers are for?
I like Farmer Boy because it's clear the décor has not changed one bit since it opened 30 years ago. Same dishes, same charming paintings on the walls, possibly the same waitress. In fact, right now they're having a promotion. If you buy a $25 gift card, you get a FREE coffee mug celebrating their 30-year anniversary. I almost got one, because these are serious diner coffee mugs, heavy and probably indestructible.
I also enjoy IHOP and don't even think of being snobby about IHOP. Any place that serves breakfast and chicken fried steak the size of your head at the same time of day can't be bad. They also have four different kinds of syrup on the table, something you just don't find everywhere. Four kinds! Four flavors!
I've heard that Jeanine's Bakery is good, but it always looks crowded and they run out of pastries quickly. This doesn't work too well if you (ok, me) want to sleep in.
I always see crowds outside of the Cajun Kitchen, but the crowds waiting outside are huge and they all look to be under 25 years of age and I have no wish to listen to people talk about how drunk they were the night before.
When I go to Farmer Boy there is a good chance that I'm the youngest person there by 20 years, especially if I sit at the counter, which I love to do. Where else can you see a gigantic bowl of butter that the wait staff scoops up with an ice cream scoop and plops onto a stack of pancakes? Also, that way you can see if they have any pie in the cold cases above the coffee pots. Not that I need pie, especially considering how I've just eaten everything on my plate, even the too crispy bits of hash browns that hide on the edge.
If there's one thing I like to do, its give other people advice. So, Edhatians, tell me in the comments section, your favorite breakfast joint and why. Maybe I'll take your advice and venture outside of my diner comfort zone.
Or maybe I'll just have some more blueberry pancakes.
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Nicole Freire is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara.