Of all meals, I like breakfast the most. It tells us a lot about a given place, culture, people, their customs, beliefs and lifestyle. Lunch or dinner, they may look quite similar, but breakfast?!? The range begins with Italian cookies and French croissants, passes through Polish scrambled eggs or English fried egg with bacon, and ends with rice with fish in Cambodia and the topping of eight chili peppers in Thailand. And each of these takes has its own rationale: the lazy, just-awaken stomach that cannot be burdened with heavy food vs the breakfast being the most important meal, giving energy for the whole day to come. Of course, we cannot forget about those who don’t have breakfast at all, occasionally out of choice, more likely out of necessity. Sometimes there is a whole piece of philosophy, like the sleeping body or a 16-hour fasting, behind it, but usually a glass of tea - if you are lucky - has to be enough to fool the hunger.
But let’s come back to those who usually have breakfast. We can see diversity not only in the choice of food but also in the way it is eaten. Are you fast or slow, thoughtfully or on the fly, celebrating the new day or scrolling through the chores on the to-do-list? Alone or with someone, do you get up a few minutes earlier to prepare it calmly or you just swallow the leftover of yesterday's sandwich?
And what is the difference between the daily breakfast and the festive, Sunday one? Is there a habit in the culture to eat out for breakfast, with others? In Poland it is slowly becoming possible, although usually before 10am it is hard to find any open cafe. In Italy, though, this is my favorite way of celebrating life. Easy going cornetto&cappuccino, preferably on a sun-kissed spot, away from the hustle and bustle. I’m not that keen to dine out. Even the aperitif, although cool as a concept, doesn’t give me as much joy as an Italian breakfast. I can sit for hours observing people: older waiters proud of their profession, so much different from Polish students trying to win some extra money. There is no contingency here, time has stopped.
People come in waves. Firstly those who run to work. From 6am, they ask for an espresso at the counter, maybe some brioche, but quickly, on the way, most cafeterias in fact offer special prices for this type of customers. Those who decide to stay, sit down at the table, contemplating the rising day, will pay more.
When the youngsters disappear in their offices, the space belongs to the elders. Elegantly dressed ladies, gentlemen with newspapers, they start their next day of life with no hurry. Maybe there is even no caffeine in their espresso, but it doesn’t matter, it’s just about the habit, a reason to get outside the house, a reason to live. They sit for hours, sharing news and old memories, yet they saw each other just yesterday. They play chess and card games, read about politics, check the results of the latest soccer matches. Sometimes, some lost tourists enter to order a cappuccino, although it's already 12pm! The waiter will look at them with pity, it's obvious they are not local. Little by little they also calm down, sit at the table, sink into the loud peace of an Italian cafeteria, let time pass, they are here and now. Finally.