It is true that America is home to the Luther Burger. It is true that America invented greasy fast food and continues to love its Burgerdonalds and McKings with heart-stirring (and -stopping) patriotic ardor. It is true that our prolonged prosperity in the 20th Century, our early adoption of refrigeration, and our vast continent of cattle-friendly farmland combined to addict our grandparents to unhealthy quantities of red meat and to enduringly define the American dinner as a plate full of starch and flesh, with an unloved ghetto of frozen vegetalia shmushed off to the side. And it is true that several species of indigenous American grub were meant to power farmers through long days manning a plow, or whatever it is that farmers do. (Think the sweet meatballs and hot bacon dressing of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking and the classical breakfast poison of flapjacks + syrup + bacon + sausage + eggs + toast + coffee. The coffee, as it happens, is a diuretic, which hamper's the body's ability to eliminate the lethal tonnage of the foregoing ingredients.) It's the last point that I've been thinking about lately: Locating the culprit for my expanding waistline amid breakfast foods.
What put me in mind of breakfast foods was an argument I had with a roommate of mine, the daughter of a ship captain who has grown up internationally, in coastal cities around the world. We were at dinner. She'd eaten mussels. I'd had steak tartar. We both had a sweet tooth. My roommate commented on the absence of doughnuts on American dessert menus. And I said -- as I think a lot of Americans might say, rather thoughtlessly -- "Of course. Doughnuts are a breakfast food."
That we were in a French restaurant made my remark more idiotic than it would otherwise be, French restaurants being the sorts of places where doughnuts really are a dessert food. (Here there was only chocolate pot de'creme.) My roommate gave me a look both incredulous and fearful -- incredulous because, the moment you think about it, it becomes apparent that doughnuts are a horrendous breakfast food; fearful because a few years in the United States had taught her that there is no limit to the grossness of the American palate, and she suspected she was about to learn something ugly.More »