From bagles with cream cheese and lox, to glazed donuts, by way of breakfast cereal and fried bread, here are all the classic items of an all-American breakfast, plus our version for French toast.
Breakfast in the US
Eggs and bacon are still ranking as a national favorite, and usually reserved for the weekend and holidays. This classic breakfast item however draws inspiration from the rich English breakfast enjoyed in the UK. The United States on the toher hand boast one of the world’s most widespread morning ritual inventions: breakfast cereal. The USA is also home to pancakes, donuts, French toast and bagels. Here is a collection of the most popular breakfast foods, plus an original re-interpretation of the classic French toast recipe by Roman chef Max Mariola.
The healing powers of breakfast cereal
Cornflakes are the undisputed protagonists of the US morning breakfast routine. The toasted and sugared flakes of corn are the brainchild of John Harvey Kellogg when he was superintendent of Battle Creek Sanitarium nel Michigan. As an ardent vegetarian, in 1894 Kellogg invented the product as a light and nutritious meal for his patients. It became so successful that the medic soon started his own company Kellogg’s, officially patenting the recipe in 1896. From this moment Mr Kellogg started experimenting with ingredient proportions on the same base product (corn, sugar and malt), and in 1928 he created Rice Krispies, which are to this day still among America’s favorite breakfast cereal, these were developed by Eugene McKay, at the head of R&D department at Kellogg’s.
Kellogg’s today: the world’s #2 corporation
In spite of it being an all-American product, the largest Kellogg’s cornflakes plant is located in Manchester county, in the Trafford Park area in the UK. Over the years the company purchased and incorporated other internationally acclaimed snack producers thus becoming one of the world’s leading multinational corporations, second only to PepsiCo.
Pancakes: last meal before Lent
After breakfast cereal, another popular breakfast food is pancakes. Fluffy and classic pancakes made with butter, flour, lmilk, sugare and eggs are cooked on a griddle and normally drizzled with warm maple syrupobtained from two varieties of maple trees that grow in the northeastern State of Vermont: Acer saccharum(sugar maple) and Acer saccharum nigrum(dark maple). Pancakes are often also enjoyed with chopped fruit, whipped cream, jam and nut spreads, honey and in some cases made woth a savory dough and paired to cured meats and cheese. The original recipe was immediately successful and celebrated worldwide, including with National Pancake Day, observed in the US and the UK on Shrove Tuesday, the last day beore the Lent 40-day fasting period. The dish started out in the ancient observance of consuming eggs and fats such as butter and oil before the fast. What better way that celebrating one last binge meal before Lent, than with decadent pancakes?
Donuts, heritage of the Dutch settlers
The majority of US pastry shops, cafes, grocery stores and supermarket chains sell donuts. First written account of these dates back to 1809, in the volume “History of New York” byWashington Irving, who describes “balls of dough fried in fat and called olykoeks”. The oly koeks (or olykoecks) of Dutch origins Irving refers to are apparently the true ancestors of the modern donut. The dough and the cooking procedure is the same, only the ring shape changed when Dutch settlers brought the recipe to the New World.
The legend behind donuts’ ring shape
As it often happens with old culinary traditions, the true origins of donuts are shrouded in mystery. Among the many popular legends, the most famous is surely that of Elizabeth Gregory, the mother of a captain of a New England warship during the first half of the Nineteenth century. Expertly balancing and mix of spices – nutmeg and cinnamon – and lemon zest, the woman created a “magic batter” that was able to ward off colds and scurvy, an ancient disease derived from a severe shortage of vitamin C, which both spices and citrus were rich in. To add additional nutritional intake, Elizabeth also added hazelnuts and walnuts in the center of the dough, but because of the weight of this central part, the center of the cake remained raw. The crew members removed the middle part of their portion, thus giving life to the first ring-shaped donuts.
Bagel: Poland’s victory bread
In addition to the many sweet treats that characterize breakfast in the USA, there is also a savory specialty: bagels, a ring-shaped bun inspired by Jewish tradition, in particular from the Polish krakow bagel. It was precisely bakers in Poland, the country officially responsible for providing bread to all of Europe during the Seventeenth century, who created – after the conclusive intervention of King Jan Sobieski (John III of Poland) against the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Vienna in 1683 – a circular bread roll reminiscent of the king’s staff, the beugel(Austrian for ‘staff’).
Variations of the bagel
The first text written to mention bagels, however, was “Community Provisions” issued by the city of Krakow in 1610 that reports the custom of eating bajgel, small rings of bread offered as gifts to pregnant women, as a symbol of the cycle of life. One thing is certain, between myths and legends: bagels became famous over the centuries because of their shelf life. They kept much longer than traditional bread. Made with water, flour, salt, yeast and malt, the obtained rings of dough are initially boiled and then baked; and often topped with poppy or sesame seeds. Most of the time, bagels are consumed as a savory dish, stuffed with cream cheese and smoked salmon, or even with vegetables or ham, Bagels can also be enjoyed with chocolate or jams.
French toast, from Apicius to the legend of Joseph
Thick slices of bread dipped in eggs and milk, fried in butter and topped with maple syrup, or powdered sugar, honey, cream and fruit. We’re talking about FrenchtoastAmerica’s richest breakfast food. The recipe for this dish dates back to Ancient Roman times. The first ever to mention the preparation is in fact Apicius who describes it as one of the many aliter dulcia (“another sweet dish”). The specialty was popular with Romans who soaked the bread in milk only. AT the origin of French toast as we know it today is France’s pain perdu (literally, lost bread), called this way for the custom of dipping stale (lost) bread in liquid to revive it and cook it until it was again fluffy and rich. The Oxford English Dictionary sets 1660 as the first ever appearance of French toast in the volume The Accomplisht Cook, but according to urban legend, the forefather of this dish is US -native Joseph French, who developed the recipe in Albany in 1724. According to English grammar, the dish should have been called French’s toast but as popular voices have it, Joseph was not too literate and for this reason he dropped the apostrophe.
Recipe: French toast by Max Mariola
Interpreting the French toast recipe with taste and creativity is Roman chef Max Mariola, one of the Gambero Rosso Channel’s most loved faces. In the TV series I Panini li Fa Max(also a book with 60 recipes) he shares Italian and international bread-based recipes.
by Michela Becchi
translated by Eleonora Baldwin