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It’s Morning in America . . .

In a perfect world there would be no alarm clocks, only breakfast.

We’d ease our way out of sleep to the crack! pop! of bacon on the griddle, the glub-glub of fresh, brewing coffee--the fingers of aroma, like vapors from cartoon pies, that would slink into our bedrooms, tickle our noses and say, “Hey, buddy, time to get up!”

Of course, only in cartoons would the bacon flip itself into the frying pan. In real life, someone has to wake up and do the cooking--more often than not, the chef at our favorite neighborhood coffee shop. For too many people, breakfast at home is of the gulp-and-run school, a doughnut swallowed in two lightning-quick bites, coffee poured into our system in 30 seconds flat.

“Home kitchens have become General Foods stores for a lot of people,” says this country’s most famous breakfast fan, Marion Cunningham, who wrote “The Breakfast Book” and “The Fannie Farmer Baking Book.”

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“There aren’t many people stirring hot cereal or baking muffins anymore. And those people who eat last night’s wilted salad from the fridge? They’re not eating breakfast at all.”

That doesn’t mean we’ve forsaken breakfast altogether. On weekends, or days that we play hooky and stay home, a long, leisurely, huge morning meal is the greatest treat of all.

“To me, it is the most personal, most family-connected meal, quite alone from lunch or brunch or supper,” Cunningham says.

It’s also the most American meal of the day. We might experiment with sushi for lunch and spicy Indian curries for dinner, but when it comes to breakfast we Americans are notoriously conservative. We stick to what we like: ham and eggs and home-fries and big, fresh biscuits or huge, floppy pancakes and thick, gooey coffee cake. Certainly we didn’t invent the idea of the morning feast--in England kippers and eggs and ham are common day starters--but no other country in the world is so devoted to the hearty, cholesterol-laden feast.

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“We always say mom and apple pie, but I think it’s mom and breakfast,” Cunningham says.

“American breakfast, to my mind, despite the power breakfast trend, is a close-friends-and-family affair. I think the meal itself--whether it’s toast and coffee, or whatever--has soothing forces that nourish us in more important ways than food alone can. It reconnects us to a lot of things that we lose in the course of our days, and there’s a familiarness to breakfast that is very reassuring.

That’s why coffee shops are so popular. “Restaurants that serve breakfast are always packed,” Cunningham says. “They do a roaring business.”

For many of us, restaurants are the only places we can get perfectly poached eggs or thick blueberry pancakes with real Vermont maple syrup. And once we find a place with waitresses who know just how we like our bacon crisped, we typically don’t stray far. Oh, we might try the apple pancakes at the Hotel Bel-Air or on a whim we might drive to the South Bay to check out the fried potatoes, but generally we find a breakfast place we like and stick with it. It’s the American way.


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