“Breakfast like an emperor,
Lunch like a king,
But in the evening, eat like a beggar.”
In all of his (rather splendid) writing on Germany, I can’t recall any mention by Mark Twain on German breakfasts. I suppose that’s not surprising. He didn’t exactly concern himself with recording Germany’s cultural successes. Anyway, I would recommend his writing to any student of German, anyone finding themselves in Germany, or even anybody considering travelling to Germany – it’s simply a treat, with all the wit and sharpness one expects of Twain.
But, back to breakfasts.
You can’t live in Victoria for as long as I did and not catch onto that city’s enthusiasm for breakfast. Perhaps it’s a result of the place, that if you live there you either have the time and money to indolently spend a morning brunching with friends, or you fool yourself at least into thinking that (I’m looking at you, university students).
Victoria has what might appear to be an inordinate number of breakfast places, at least until one considers that on weekends you’ll often struggle to find a table, and that the more mediocre places have a line out the door. It’s simply a matter of supply and demand.
And why not? I suspect that in Canada we often under-appreciate breakfast as a social opportunity. Sure, we do manage to haul ourselves out of bed, sometimes for a special occasion, or after a night out, but it seems so lush, so decadent.
And so we have our breakfast joints and our brunch places. But these happen to be outside of the house. We don’t have a tradition of inviting people over for breakfast. No, now that I think about it, it would be rather weird, wouldn’t it?
Not so in Germany. Though you’ll struggle to find a breakfast place here, it’s not unusual, at least among students, to invite friends and family over for a thumping big breakfast. Now, this isn’t your usual English or Canadian style fry-up. You’ll not find any fried eggs, no jam, beans, or pancakes, nothing. In fact, many Germans find the thought of eating these foods in the morning revolting. When I was in London last Eva remarked, upon seeing Svenja eating jam on toast, that she couldn’t imagine eating something so sweet for breakfast. And how did Svenja respond? Well, that she couldn’t believe we had eaten so hearty and savoury the day before with our full English of fried eggs, bacon, and sausage – what in Germany passes for a good lunch!
Instead you’ll usually find a massive basket of rolls or buns – called Brötchen or “little breads” in German – and an even larger assortment of cheeses, meats, and spreads. You take a half bun and layer it with as much as you choose, then eat it – the knife and fork have no place in a German breakfast, with no need to eat hot, fried food. You might choose to take a bowl of muesli or yoghurt, but that’s up to you. And the only time you’ll see an egg is if it’s hardboiled into Frühstückesei form.
My one roommate has had different parts of her family over for breakfast, often coming from quite far away (at least in German terms – for British Columbians, it more resembles the distance between North Vancouver and Richmond) to just stay for the morning. And as a part of the WG or Wohngemeinschaft family, I naturally get to take part.
It’s a long process, as Adam Fletcher succinctly outlines in his guide to “Being German in 20 Steps.” Fletcher rightly points out that German weekend breakfasts are marathons, not 100-metre dashes.