Perhaps it is true of all breads that they can be eaten at any meal, all day and every day. I remember my wicked delight in gobbling up a petite, perfectly baked baguette and drinking scalding hot chocolate at the pensione when I spent a week in Paris. Bread and chocolate for breakfast! How exotic and wonderful it was to pretend to be French. It was easy to do as I strolled along the river, hoping to be mistaken as a graceful, mousy blonde, American Gigi, who knew little French and less about sophistication.
Years ago, when I lived in London, I often visited a pub around the corner from our flat that served free sandwiches at lunch – which is when I discovered the sinus-clearing side effect of liberal lashings of Colman’s mustard on a warm, fresh baguette piled high with sliced turkey. Those days have gone by, too. I doubt if pubs in London give away sandwiches any more. But then, I can’t remember the last time I had a couple of beers for lunch, either.
Growing up we had Pepperidge Farm Parker House rolls for ceremonial birthday dinners, but when I lived in North Carolina, those same Parker House rolls were an acceptable substitute for homemade biscuits when serving brunch ham biscuits, with a milder spicy brown mustard and thin slices of onion and a wisp of Swiss cheese. We don’t do bunch much, either, any more. And I remember the breakfast sausage biscuits were the best at Jan’s House diner, in Jamestown, North Carolina. Carbs are us.
There is not a week that goes by that we don’t have garlic bread at dinner. That might be the one varietal that does not translate into something palatable for breakfast. Though one might argue that pizza is just as redolent with garlic, yet we find pizza perfectly acceptable for breakfast, even if the grown up nutritionists among us might look askance that we have not put our childish college ways behind us…
Have you started watching The Great British Baking Show on PBS? It is a competitive cooking program with grace, humor and manners. I do not normally watch reality television programs, but this show is unusually cheerful and chipper. http://www.pbs.org/food/shows/great-british-baking-show/ It is totally wonderful, and ridiculously I cannot stop buttonholing people, jabbering on about its many charms.
I used to think I was a decent baker, until I saw the incredible range of skills required in that baking tent. The bakers have produced a prodigious assortment of cakes, pies, biscuits, rolls, breads, pastries, baklavas, profriteroles, macarons, and Choux pastries; the list goes on and on – the show has been broadcasting for five seasons, after all. I have discarded my early romantic notion of a French way of life, now I would like to be a competent, amateur British baker.
The winsome and hardy, non-professional British bakers would not flinch at the thought of baking a baguette, or a Parker House roll. They would not feel challenged by baking bagels, baguettes, batards or boules. They would not break into a vulgar sweat at the notion of baking Southern breakfast biscuits or twirling out some brioche.
Sadly, since I am not likely to emigrate this week to be discovered by the BBC, I must take my head out of the fantasy clouds of Sachertortes and puffy crème pâtissière, and worry about whipping up a batch of humble cornbread to go with the vat o’chili I am making to keep us warm this weekend. And happily, cornbread is in my skill set. I can bake it since it does not require yeast or kneading or ingredient weighing. And it is something we can cheerfully eat at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every day. The Tall One goes through mountains of cornbread when he puts in an appearance, which validates my time spent in the kitchen.
Here is the Mark Bittman’s recipe for cornbread – the easiest recipe of all – leaving me time to get back to PBS.com and reruns of The Great British Baking Show: http://markbittman.com/recipe/corn-bread/
Our friends at Food52 hit a homer with this recipe – which is very appealing to all of the bacon lovers around here. Last weekend, when we had a houseful of family, you could see the cloud of bacon grease over our house – we must have cooked three pounds in two days! Everyone’s fave was the bacon infused pancakes. And we wonder why we waddle!
And if you want to wander through some of your own French daydreams, here is an entertaining blog and website. It never hurts to have crème pâtissière skills honed and up-to-the-minute – you might want to bake éclairs for breakfast sometime soon!
“To each other, we were as normal and nice as the smell of bread. We were just a family. In a family even exaggerations make perfect sense.” –John Irving