Andrew Zimmern: Make The Most of The Most Important Meal

“Eat your breakfast! It’s the most important meal of the day!” my mother would scream at me. But I wasn’t a breakfast guy back then. Other than the odd brunch out, I grew up eating a quick poached egg or an “egg in the hole” with a short glass of juice, maybe a bowl of cereal. Since I didn’t like sweets for my morning meal, I felt doomed to this limited routine.

Then I went overseas for the first time. In much of Europe, two morning meals were the norm. Enjoy coffee and a croissant early and then a little something more at mid-morning. In some countries they ate yogurts and grains, breads and cheeses, cured meats, roasted mushrooms, and tomatoes. This was more like it.

In Asia I discovered rice porridge (congee) with ginger spiked greens and shreds of roasted pork or chicken. And I found my favorite morning meals in Japan, where small portions of fish, rice, soup, pickles, and vegetables are served together as standard fare.

I learned the true value of morning nutrition when I lived with the Maasai for a week in Tanzania and ate thick soured milk, blood, and millet porridge every morning. Sounds strange, tastes stranger, but it’s the perfect way to get your energy up for herding cattle all day. In Mexico, a steaming beautiful bowl of trompo beef soup is a hearty morning pick-me-up.

Today I’m a dad, reminding my kid that he should finish his breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day. But I have come to believe that the standard American breakfast of two eggs, buttered toast, sausage, hash browns, flapjacks with syrup, and some juice doesn't make sense in our post-agrarian society. Three-egg omelets were fine when you filled up and headed outdoors to earn your living, but now we need more balance.

At our house, our morning meal is often Asian-inspired: mostly vegetables and lean meats with a soupçon of carbs. But we don’t limit ourselves. Sometimes we pretend we are in Germany and eat cold cuts and a piece of country bread. Sometimes my son and I share a soupy meal in a bowl. Weekends are still built on bacon, and Sunday mornings wouldn’t be the same without smoked fish and bagels. It’s variety that makes the world go round, after all. The breakfast rut is a deep one; try not to fall in.

Pancakes

Pancakes

Whether you call them cakes or flapjacks, there’s no denying the power of the pancake to deliver a gut-filling, heart-warming morning meal. Here's nine critic's picks.

Diners

Diners

Not many people order Adam and Eve on a Raft these days when they want eggs and toast, but there are still pockets of greasy griddle-top cooking that bring you back to simpler days and simpler eggs.

Eye-Openers: Breakfast Cocktails

Morning cocktail anyone? From bloody marys to coffees, these drinks will give you a mighty wake-up call. Sip on these ten critics' picks.

Egg Sandwiches

Egg Sandwiches

A complete dish in your hands, the egg is the perfect food, especially when joined by some melty cheese, perhaps a little salty breakfast meat, and a bit of cheffy bravado.

Coffee Loves Pastry

Coffee Loves Pastry

If you have to grab and go, make it meaningful with both caffeine and pastry groups representing.

Family-Friendly

Family-Friendly

These places know how to make it a good morning for you while keeping the kiddos entranced.

Donuts

Donuts

The humble hunk of sugary fried dough can be as simple as cake or as funky as chai these days. These five represent.

Reservations Required

Reservations Required

Easter and Mother’s Day are the biggest brunch days of the year. Here are the classic spots if you want to call early.

Manly Mornings

Manly Mornings

Meaty and massive are perhaps the two main characteristics of a morning meal that will satisfy a manly appetite. Not that that’s necessarily a gender thing.

Ethnic

Ethnic

Morning is universal. You don’t have to stick with the same old eggs and cakes.

Late Night

Late Night

Tucking into a mess of eggs or stack of cakes at the end of an evening just seems to cap the revelry. Plus, it will carry you through until bloody mary time.

Don’t Diss the Buffet: 3 to Hit

Don’t Diss the Buffet: 3 to Hit

Three different spins on all-you-can eat brunch buffets.

Make the Drive: Worthy One-Offs

Make the Drive: Worthy One-Offs

These breakfast dishes make these dining spots a destination.

Beth Dooley: What’s So Special About Al’s Breakfast?

Beth Dooley: What’s So Special About Al’s Breakfast?

It has been six decades since the original Al—Al Bergstrom—started flipping hash in an 11-foot storage shed squeezed in the alley.

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