Monday, February 7, 2011

God mórgon! (Good morning in Swedish)

We're all familiar with the cliché “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Though I do enjoy a great many breakfast foods, I am not a huge breakfast eater. I am just not normally that hungry in the A.M. So when I read that a traditional Scandinavian breakfast is usually very simple – bread with jam, meat, or cheese, for example – I realized these are a people after my own heart. (Especially when I found a site saying that coffee and cookies are a typical breakfast, though I'd substitute tea for coffee, and they probably don't mean the kind of cookies I'm thinking of, but who knows. The sugar jolt would certainly get me going!)

There really isn't a very comprehensive source for what a “traditional Scandinavian breakfast” is, so I'll discuss my findings here. The one thing everyone could agree on is that people all across Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are the main countries) have bread for breakfast. And when I say bread, I don't mean our crappy 75% air sliced bread. I mean the kind you get from the bakery section of the grocery store; the thicker, tougher bread, like baguettes, rolls, ciabatta, that kind of bread. The kind endorsed by Alton Brown.

On this yummy, heartier bread we put simple things, like cheese – slices of cheese, not shredded – or thin slabs of cold meat (essentially an open-faced sandwich), or just the simple and familiar butter or strawberry jam. Possibly the most interesting traditional breakfast is the Danish øllebrød, a porridge made from bread scraps and beer. (Don't expect to see øllebrød make a future appearance on my blog, though I admit it intrigues me.)

And coffee, I am repeatedly told, is a MUST.

I do happen to have some French rolls in my fridge, and though I am quite fond of strawberry jam, grape jelly is... more economical, so this is what I have on hand rather than jam. I prefer a nice cuppa tea in the mornings, but I do sometimes make coffee, and overall, I think this fare sounds delightful! One of my favorite things to make as a first meal of the day that I prepare only rarely is fried eggs on toast, or better, the sliced Italian round bread from Trader Joe's (it's the cheapest bread in the Ann Arbor store at $1.99) with cheese melted over top. I made this the other day with ¼ cup of chopped broccoli cooked in with the eggs because my current diet miraculously lacks vegetables. (Funny how easily even a vegetarian diet can do that!)

A terrific little open-faced sandwich that I think falls in line with the Swedes is something I learned from a former coworker in San Francisco. Start with a plain bagel, untoasted. Spread on some crème fraîche (yes, it is French for “fresh cream,” but this is distinctly different from what we in English call “fresh cream”), then layer on thinly sliced smoked salmon. Consume. This would also be perfect on a bread like ciabatta, or any hearty bread that doesn't have “Wonder” in its name.

Sliced cucumbers would be a great way to add vegetables to your meal, especially if you prefer not to have meat and/or cheese. (This would be a good vegan alternative, for example.) Tomatoes, as well, that superfood I keep reading about.

And speaking of superfoods, a word on coffee (and tea). I know a lot of people who have been forced to stop drinking coffee to preserve their stomachs, and there is persistent chatter about whether or not coffee is a carcinogen. There is one good thing that both our popular morning brews contain: antioxidants. According to a study released in 2005, coffee contains more antioxidants than any other food. Tea is another fantastic source for these helpful little disease fighters. (Real tea made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tree, not tisanes, better known as herbal teas.) I recently took a brain health quiz that actually criticized me for not drinking more coffee! So don't feel bad about sipping on that cup of Joe. (Feel bad about all the sugar and creamer.)

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