Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bacon and eggs, some toast and a cup of tea please

I've had a full driving licence since I was 17. I passed the three wheeler test the year before. Every year, when I check to see if I can get a better car insurance quote I'm told by some Spanish clerk or web designer that I'm wrong. You can't pass a driving test till you're 18 they tell me. We agree to lie. It's a good job I wasn't brought up on a farm in North Dakota. In that case I could have been driving since I was 13. Every country has its manner of doing things and its natives think of that as being the ordinary and correct way.

You wouldn't think breakfast was like that though. I asked some of my English learners what they had for breakfast. I know it's a bit trite but some little conversation starter at the front of a lesson is standard stuff. It isn't the first time I've asked the question and so I wasn't surprised that people drank milk, ate biscuits or considered that pouring Nesquik type flavoured milk on their cereals constituted both food and drink. The next day I asked the same question to a much more advanced group and I was surprised at the confusion the question generated.

For most of my life breakfast has been a pretty solitary affair so it could be that I'm out of step. Nonetheless, from the times that I've shared breakfast time, from what I've seen on the telly and at the pictures I think I can safely say that the Anglo idea of breakfast is that you get up and shortly afterwards you eat breakfast. You may choose to skip breakfast but that's when breakfast is.

What we eat varies a lot. I usually have toast or cereal, occasionally eggs and, if I have the time and inclination, I may go for some variation on a full English with bacon, eggs, sausage and the rest. I know that Spaniards sometimes have cakes or biscuits and that in this region having grated tomato and oil on toast is commonplace. North Americans include waffles and pancakes as a part of their breakfast choice and I love those spicy Mexican scrambled eggs. In Poland I ate cold meats with bread, I know the French “continental breakfast” and fruit and yoghurt seem normal enough too. All different but all variations on a theme. For me breakfast wouldn't be breakfast without a drink - I'm a tea and juice man myself but I have no quarrel with coffee or even a glass of milk as accompaniment.

Apparently though the question wasn't so straightforward for many of my students. Their view of what constituted breakfast was quite different from mine from which I can only surmise that the Spanish view of breakfast is different to an English one. Despite my years here it was something that I had failed to appreciate. The majority told me that they had breakfast at ten or eleven. The very word, in English, to break (the overnight) fast is echoed in the Spanish where ayuno is a fast and desayuno is breakfast. I had to explain that, for us, the mid morning break, the coffee break, elevenses, is not breakfast.

They thought my view of breakfast was very rigid.

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