I love breakfast. There it is, I have made my affirmative statement for the day. There is nothing better than a leisurely breakfast and it does not even matter what the weather is like. Today it is looking pretty grim out there. The dark clouds are gathering and I do not want to say it as it is only mid August…there is a not summer chill to the air. Even the impending thought of the end of summer does not dampen my enthusiasm for breakfast which I am eating on the enclosed balcony of my apartment overlooking the Ishm River in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
Here in Kazakhstan, breakfast is a daily ritual. We even serve it at school and children and staff will come in early for a bowl of porridge (I never knew there were so many ways to make porridge) and eggs in some format. Without a bowl of porridge, nothing will be achieved here – have even heard of a near protest when our sister school in the south of the country proposed a menu change removing ‘kasha’, the generic name for this essential morning food.
If you travel in Kazakhstan or any of the neighbouring ‘stans’ such as Uzbekistan make sure that you stay in local ‘homestays’ as you will experience breakfast at a whole different level – even the best hotels that I have stayed in around the world cannot compete with the variety of breakfast delicacies that will greet you on these vast tables. Of course every breakfast starts with ‘kasha’ whether the weather be hot or cold. It might be made of seven grains, oats, rice, quinoa…the ingredients seem endless but it is sure to be delicious. On the table will be some fresh made bread. In Uzbekistan it will be there famous round breads with the bakers stamp baked into the centre. The bread that Timur’s soldiers marched on, the bread that build the great cities of the Silk Road and filled the Mongal raiders. Although delicious on it’s own, it can be eaten with fresh butter and the local jam. This jam I have had in many places and is not like any other jam you will have tasted. It is made from the berries gathered in the mountains and the steppe and has a freshness that brings your taste buds alive. It is runny so you have to dip bread rather than spread the jam. The table is already laden with different jams and bread but suddenly another course appears – it might be an omelette or fried eggs or fresh cottage cheese wrapped in thin bread and fried – whatever it is, it is quite simply irresistible. Lashings of green tea, black tea or tea made from the herbs and flowers gathered along with the berries completes the breakfast of nomads, Mongal warriors and Silk Road traders.
Of course, breakfast always tastes much better when someone else has made it for you.
One of the perks of travelling is breakfast and trying different breakfasts as every culture has a different breakfast cuisine. Being Scottish, the fry up is part of our breakfast culture – although the country was built on porridge too. You can see it on menus as a ‘All Day Breakfast’ with the possible addition of chips to make it a more appealing lunch or dinner option. Key elements of a Scottish fry up as opposed to an English fry up are the square sausage, black pudding and either the fried pancake or potato scone. Baked beans are not a traditional accompaniment. Square sausage is also called Lorne sausage. It does not have a sausage skin and is, as the name suggests, square. Black pudding – the ingredients may not sound too appealing but it’s slightly spicy flavour cut through the salty bacon and rich creamy eggs and is essential to the overall experience. A fried potato scone – or sometimes a pancake, depending on where you are – is a delight. Even on it’s own, popped into the toaster with butter dripping off it, a potato scone is particular Scottish delicacy. You can make them yourself but it is near impossible to recreate the fluffiness and softness that the bakeries achieve. A friend of my mother’s did have the magic touch. Was it the way she cooked the potatoes – baked or boiled?
What’s your breakfast culture cuisine?