I’m sitting in Adelaide, Australia having the best coffee I’ve had since last time I was here. After the coffee purgatory of the United States, I’m deeply appreciative. It’s not just me either. We walked into the Qantas Club at the Sydney airport after our last trip and I overheard the couple next to us:
She: Oooo, smell that coffee.
He: REAL coffee instead of stewed swill.
We are used to European style coffee here and the American coffee is very different. So different, in fact, I have given up and order hot tea in most places. In fact, in Southern Ohio and most of the Midwest, I’m afraid it’s not just the coffee that is lacking in flavour and quality. I hasten to add, I’ve had fabulous food in New York and California and occasionally at certain restaurants in between. But it’s a big country and easy to be led astray, and hard to know the local secrets, so we’ve had more bad to average meals than good ones.
Our recent trip had the priority of looking after my Mother who is frail and mostly unable to get out for meals. So we set a plan to have two meals a day, breakfast and dinner, so that we could spend the middle of the day with Mum. When you are only eating two meals a day, you want them to be good, but we had the added problem of being bone tired at the end of every day and didn’t really feel like much foraging.
Breakfast was the meal we really focused on because Americans have been eating breakfast ‘out’ for many decades and generally they do it well. Images of the classic American diner may spring to mind! ‘Two eggs lookin’ atcha, hon?’ However, I’ve realised my requirements for a good breakfast have changed. I want vegetables. In Australia, a normal cooked breakfast includes at least tomatoes and mushrooms, generally spinach and often avocado. In the Midwest, it more likely includes biscuits (scones) with sausage gravy, eggs, bacon/sausage or hash brown potatoes–delicious at its best, stodgy at its worst, and definitely light on the veggie content.
After less successful attempts, we found a couple of places that were acceptable, one that was superb. The acceptable place is a modern day diner type franchise called Frisch’s Big Boy. When I was a girl we went there for burgers and cole slaw, strawberry pie and even good fish sandwiches, and French fries. Frisch’s has updated their offering with a fruit/veg/breakfast bar. We even noted a staff member using a digital thermometer recording the temps of everything on a clipboard, which reassured us that care was being taken to keep the buffet from salmonella surprise! This isn’t always the case, as you might know, with buffets being blamed for all kinds of things. So the food was not organic or local, and much of it was overly sweetened, fried, and oh, that liquid plastic cheese in the pump compartment! But I managed to put together a salad of raw broccoli, green peppers, pineapple and some cottage cheese and a bit of blue cheese dressing each time we visited. A few times I also had sausage and scrambled egg to see me through until dinner, some eight hours hence.
The real favourite breakfast was found at The Original Pancake House. They create a six egg veggie omelette, bacon and gluten free pancakes that made me so happy. Of course I could not even eat half an omelette that size, so my husband shared it with me. For all the hype that eating gluten free gets in California, Southern Ohio has not embraced the trend. After reading a few menus and online descriptions we gather that the requirements for serving gluten free might be a bit stringent there making those serving gf products prepare them in areas exclusively set aside. This might be helpful for Coeliacs but for people like me who are just gluten intolerant it meant very few options, as most restaurants can’t spare that kind of dedicated space. So the gf pancakes at the Original Pancake house were a treat several times during our three week visit.
Breakfast was a bit of an adventure many days. Our second morning at Frisch’s a lady being seated next to us loudly shared with the waitress that she had brought her own coffee because their coffee was so ‘awful’ (her word, but I silently agreed with her). On another occasion the fellow being seated behind us ordered a ‘cherry coke’ for breakfast. As if coke isn’t sweet enough, cherry syrup is added to it for a cough syrup type flavour. I’m not judging (OK, perhaps a little) that’s just what the taste is like. Vanilla Coke is also popular in that category. I used to have a friend who drank Pepsi instead of coffee each morning, pointing out to me that it was caffeinated and sweet like coffee, to which I could but agree.
Our first morning eating the hotel breakfast a man and his son came in and the hostess asked if he was with the group eating in the conference area, to which he answered ‘Yes, but that food looks gross, can we eat here in the restaurant?’ Of course he was accommodated but we couldn’t help but think what a rude example the man was setting for his young son. To each his own, I guess.
The most memorable breakfast, however, had nothing to do with the food. One morning we were too tired to hunt-and-gather for breakfast, so we ate at the hotel. Early in the process while my husband was at the breakfast bar, I saw out of the corner of my eye, a man from a nearby table come rushing to the booth in front of me, toward another man standing, but bent over–choking! The younger man started performing the Heimlich manoeuvre on the older man who was the one choking. It was not a quick fix, carrying on for at least a minute or two. A woman who we later thought must have had some medical experience came over and was encouraging and coaching the younger man to keep at it. Most of the rest of us would have not been big enough or strong enough to have done the job. Eventually the older man expelled the offending food, and was able to catch his breath. Meanwhile, the waitress had phoned paramedics who showed up only about six or seven minutes after the event. They spoke with the older man and apparently the older man had had some previous issues with choking. The paramedic suggested perhaps he might need to slow down and chew longer, to which the older man responded: ‘I was trying to eat my breakfast before it got cold!’ It very nearly was not all that was cold! Several people went over to the young man to shake his hand and praise him for his fast work. It was a good reminder that for all our divergent tastes, good people are still around us.