Breakfast in Italia… One of the first things that you learn when you move to Italy concerns the differences in food culture. It can sometimes be difficult to let go of the conventions which you’ve always taken as absolute. But when it comes to eating, you’ll quickly learn to question everything that you thought you knew in your previous life. So no matter what your mother told you or what you’ve read in the latest fad diet book on nutrition, do yourself a favor: ignore it all and just follow the example of the Italians.
Let’s look at breakfast for instance. In the US, we are often lectured about the importance of a substantial breakfast. “It’s the most important meal of the day,” or so the mantra goes. Even if bacon and eggs are no longer our standard fare, we still manage to horse down a sizeable portion of sugar and calories with our bagels and cream cheese and Frappuccino Macchiato with an extra pump of caramel sauce.
Breakfast in Italia
Walk into any bar in Rome between the hours of 7:30 and 9:30 and just observe what people are eating. When you first look at the simple cornetto and the diminutive shot of espresso, it may not strike you as something immediately appealing. But go ahead, be brave. If you can’t speak Italian, just say it in English with an Italian accent. They’ll know what you want.
First, savor it with your sense of smell. The cornetto evokes the comforts of grandma’s kitchen. It relaxes you, makes you feel warm and cozy. Now have a whiff of the espresso. Your eyes open a little wider and you’re suddenly more alert, more engaged than you were only seconds ago. And you haven’t even put anything in your mouth yet.
As the morning goes on, you’ll realize that the breakfast was just right: not too little, not too much. The perfect combination of pastry, sugar, fat, and caffeine. You’re neither too full, nor hungry. You won’t need any more food until lunch, but you’ll probably want another espresso around 11:00 or so, just to keep your energy level balanced.
I haven’t been able to decipher the precise alchemy of this formula, but it just plain works, believe me. Breakfast in Italia–I suppose it’s the result of centuries of trial and error, but whatever the reason, I’ll never go back to donuts or Starbucks again.
And if you want to read about the intrusion of American style coffee protocols in Milan, read my post about Freakonomics Italian Style.