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Barbara Geier Column
This month, our columnist Barbara Geier discusses the comforting routine that is German breakfast.
In these mad, mad, mad, mad, well, what can I say, mad times, I’m going to be very trivial now, and turn my mind to comforting things and think of – German breakfast. Yes, I know, also mad! But who cares?
A proper German breakfast is and will forever be for me one of the best things in life. This is because it is not just about the food but the whole package, which is unique to my home country. ‘Going for breakfast’ is not simply about eating, it’s a social occasion. You meet your friends for breakfast, preferably not before 10am, on a weekend and then the whole affair can drag on until well into the afternoon. People do that in the UK, too, you might say, and yes, that’s true, but there are some specific elements that are not always a given on these shores and that are essential to the German way of doing breakfast, not least the breakfast itself. So, here are some of the essential ingredients of a German breakfast...
First of all, there’s table service. Very important. No queuing at a counter, no carrying around your own stuff. The most important thing for the breakfast is ‘Gemütlichkeit’, and being served is part of this. As is the feeling that you can stay as long as you like and linger and talk, and, should you be on your own, read the paper – so, there’ll be papers provided – as long as you want, without feeling obliged to leave your table as soon as you’ve finished to make space for someone else. Oh no, there’s no rush. Linger, please.
Most importantly now, the menu. As much as I like the choices that you have here when you go for breakfast or brunch, the many types of eggs, scrambled and this and that, pancakes, porridge, French toast, bagels, etc etc, it always irks me a bit that you always have to make a decision between either this or that in the end and order everything individually. Apart from the typical English Breakfast which is indeed a plate full of things all at once, there’s nothing ‘packaged’. And this is what a German breakfast does so well. If you go to a café in Germany, the breakfast menu will offer a variety of different breakfasts combining all the essentials that are part of a breakfast in different ways and sizes: There’s the ‘big breakfast’, the ‘small breakfast’, the ‘healthy breakfast’, the ‘breakfast for two’, the ‘Mediterranean breakfast’ or sometimes café owners get really imaginative and give their breakfast choices all kinds of weird and wonderful titles. I even saw (not surprisingly) a ‘Brexit breakfast’ a couple of months ago, for all Germans who like sausages and beans to start the day with.
Whatever you might call it, the most important thing is the content: a German breakfast will always feature a number of essentials so there’s no need to order things individually. There will always be a basket of bread and bread rolls (vital!), butter, jam, honey, Nutella, and obviously coffee or tea, and then depending on your taste, you can order variations featuring eggs (boiled, scrambled, or otherwise), cheese (yes! We eat cheese for breakfast, put on a piece of bread with butter, it’s great!), cold cuts, ‘Müsli’, fruits, yoghurt, smoked salmon and many other things.
And there’s always one price for each breakfast “package”. So, you can basically get a table full of things at a very reasonable price, and eat your way through it.
Actually, I think there’s a gap in the market in London or elsewhere in the UK for a proper German breakfast place. It’s practical, efficient, delicious and ‘gemütlich’. What’s not to like? And let’s call it ‘Frühstück’ (breakfast) then. Two umlauts, I mean, can it get any cooler? The hipsters will love it! However, before pursuing this plan any further, I might just have to wait until these mad, mad, mad, mad, mad times get less mad.