I love breakfast. Well, specifically, I love food that’s usually eaten for breakfast in the United States, now and historically. Unfortunately, I have what might politely be called an awareness deficiency when I first get up, which makes it difficult to do anything involving hot stoves and following instructions. Until I’ve got the money to hire a personal chef, reading cookbooks such as A Real American Breakfast will have to do….but these two are a pleasure to read.
A Real American Breakfast is a much more comprehensive cookbook than The Big Book of Breakfast, with a range of dishes that might plausibly be eaten for brunch but which also might serve for a lunch. Overall, it is aimed more at the full breakfast/brunch market, but does include what many would these days think of as a more mundane weekday menu. Waffles may be too time consuming for most people to squeeze into their daily morning routine, but this cookbook does include wraps, sandwiches, cereals and the like which might be prepared quickly on days when the diner needs something quick, tasty and nutritious which can be eaten on the road. This is a big cookbook, though the size is due largely to the combination of sidebars describing historical details and notes regarding the ingredients with white space around each recipe–handy for those of us who like to scribble notes regarding our preparation and tweaks of the recipes. There are some photographs, set aside in special sections, but as they do not accompany the recipes which they illustrate, this requires a bit of flipping back and forth and therefore aren’t particularly useful as illustrations.
Maryana Vollstedt’s The Big Book of Breakfast is, typically of Vollstedt’s other books, a fairly straightforward collection of generic American recipes. The recipes are simple, straightforward and not overly spicy. None of them would make the Food Network–we’re talking plain food rather than haute gourmet–but then this sort of thing could be a godsend if you’re trying to present a meal for people who are disinclined to chichi tasting menus or unable to eat highly spiced or complex dishes–children, say, or people with gastric reflux. The layout also provides plenty of white space for those of us who like to make notes on recipes. Perhaps not surprisingly given the stereotyped perception of breakfasts, the recipes herein are slanted heavily toward eggs and egg based dishes, such as strata, frittatas, quiches and the old standbys, pancakes, crepes and french toast; this may be a problem for diners with cholesterol issues or allergies, but makes the cookbook ideal for those of us who like going out to the kind of diner where the cooks pass dishes out through a slot in the dining room wall. She does include short chapters on breads, meats and potatoes. Overall, I’d say this was a good basic starter cookbook for people looking to create a conventional brunch…or who’re looking for a somewhat updated cookbook in the style of Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book.
True: many people simply don’t have time for anything more complex than slicing a banana on a bowl of cold cereal in the morning. But as both of these cookbooks point out, who says you have to have omeletes or hash browns for breakfast?