01 September 2008

In praise of breakfast

This was a very good day. Labor Day, designated a holiday in order to skip labor. Well done. The day began [after the obligatory dog walk] with breakfast with Byron. Breakfast with Byron is one of my favorite pastimes, unfortunately more past than present as Byron now lives in Hong Kong. The best we can do as a rule is eat at the same time as we Skype, not the same. Now he is here visiting friends and family and we frequently meet in the morning. Breakfast is an under-rated outing. People gather for lunch or drinks or dinner, all good, but breakfast at an outdoor café may be the best dining out of all. Europeans know this well. So do South Americans. And Lagunans get it as well, as every morning, every café in town is flush with patrons sipping their lattes and munching on muffins and either scanning the newspaper, especially Fridays when the two local papers publish, or arguing the merits of town planning and politics with intimates. I know people who meet every morning this way. They all have their favorite place. Zinc is the chic breakfast place, known largely by locals but occasionally found by tourists who are forever confounded by the one door to the take-out market and another to the café, largely because all seating is outside.

There are at least a half dozen similar breakfast café’s around town, and all close by four. As if to clam that daylight is the best time for food with friends. Meetings are best held at breakfast. Deals are done as much over breakfast as on the golf course. Awakening to a new day we’re relaxed, open-minded, cheerful. The stresses of the day have not yet set in. Breakfast is an intimate act, like that first morning after the night before. It’s the time we once spent with children and before that our own parents. With room-mates and spouses and lovers. I like to meet friends for breakfast, although I’m known as a lady who lunches, which I also like to do, especially on the spur of the moment, and frankly, I’m quick to put down my pan and meet for a light dinner. I like scanning a menu to choose just what suits me at the moment. I like someone serving me with a smile [or not as in Europe. In Spain, they bark at you, Diga me! And of course one must order from the menu, no special orders as we Americans have turned into high art. Still, the experience is enhanced by the very presence of someone else doing the work.]

I do not mean for a moment to disparage home cooking. I like slow food, freshly prepared. But home is where the phone is. Where email alerts ring out from the desk. Where chores remain incomplete, laundry and ironing to be done. There’s enough of that all day, and always waiting for the return home. On the way to breakfast, all that is left behind the locked door for quiet time with a friend. I confess, I often take a book to breakfast, another not-so-guilty pleasure. Also a great place to read the newspaper without interruption, although alone it’s hard to bitch or read aloud smart words or stories that sting. Lunch is better served as a quick visit with a friend or business. Dinner is social or the quiet end to a busy day. Breakfast, nothing has started, nothing to finish, nothing to distract, not just yet.

The one great irony… I don’t drink coffee. Only tea, usually iced, and I knew I had truly landed in Laguna Beach the first time I stopped in at Heidelberg Café, one of my favorites, and before I placed my order for a lightly toasted healthy harvest muffin [whole grains and nuts and sweetened with juice, hits the spot] when Fernando, one of the constants behind the morning counter, poured my iced tea, no lemon. He doesn’t ever remember my name, but he knows what I drink. There is something truly wonderful about being known. Especially at breakfast. Makes one feel right at home.


  1. It's 10:46am and your blog is making me hungry! Too bad the Brits don't do breakfast like the Yanks, except Turkish breakfast in Stoke Newington on Sunday with Anthony is the highlight of my week.
    Looking forward to sunny Laguna breakfast with you soon - especially the Beachcomber. xoxo Dana

  2. Props to Fernando. That was the hardest part of becoming a barista at Alta, but it does carry a sense of community when one remembers your drink or for those on the other side of the counter: the first time it "clicks" and you can simply greet and fetch. Many times not a single word is exchanged, just smiles and money... depending on the varied chattiness of both the patron and coffee(or in your case tea) slinger. and THAT only happens at "home"