Being big on primal nutrition, one thing that struck me about London was the lack of protein and the major focus on grains, mostly breads. Obviously I expected Italy to be big on pasta but I just assumed that London and even Paris would allow for me to eat fairly similarly to how I do at home. But I was wrong.
Hot Water and Plastic Cups Don’t Mix
Starting out in London at a low budget hostel we were met with our first European breakfast, toast with jam and hot tea (in plastic cups <- not good). But this was a free breakfast in a dirt cheap hostel so of course it wasn’t going to be the best of foods.
To avoid the unfulfilling “meal” altogether the next day we just ate some of the snacks that I had packed. I tend to eat a lot so I planned ahead and brought along some non-perishable essentials, mixed nuts, beef jerky, tuna packets, and, my favorite, raisins (I don’t know why but I seem to be addicted).
Aside from breakfast though I started to notice the sandwiches, nearly all bread with a couple slices of lunchmeat. Definitely not what I typically eat but of course I’ll eat whatever’s available when I have to.
A Real Breakfast
After a couple days in London we decided to head to the local diner for some real breakfast. I ordered the traditional breakfast that, from the picture, was a hearty looking meal with eggs, sausage and hash browns.
I was ready for a big American plate of food, hey I am a big American. But when I saw the meal it left a bit to be desired. It was about 1 egg scrambled, little sausages and potatoes. It all tasted good but left me hungry for more.
It wasn’t until the Stonehenge Tour that I learned why in fact there is very little beyond breads, at least in London.
During the bus ride we’re cruising through the rolling hills outside of London and our guide is explaining why the area lacks vegetation, it’s predominantly clay just below ground level. The only thing that they can possibly grow is grain, but only with extremely large quantities of fertilizer.
This made the lack of fruits, vegetables, and meat finally make sense. Since they can’t grow it they would have to import it from somewhere else, so they just don’t do it. And if they don’t have fertile enough land to produce vegetables it’s also logical that they don’t have many farms producing meat.
Fast forward to Tuscany for Marla’s cooking class. On the drive in Silvio was talking about the the area and pointing out the farms that produce a lot of olives along with some grapes. (Marla asked what kind of olives and he said the olive oil kind. Obviously a silly question to him, but I thought the answer was great) Marla asked if that’s how all the farms were and he mentioned that there were some cattle farms but very few and they aren’t for meat, just dairy.
Beyond London we were met with very little meat or vegetables in both Paris and Italy and the lack of farms is quite obviously the reason. With a lack of ability to produce much more beyond grain, these countries make do with what they have.
Pizza IS Italian
So I always had this feeling that pizza was a bit more American than Italian. Yes it’s Italian but I was fairly certain that it wasn’t a major focus of Italian cuisine in Italy. At least in mainstream Italy where cafes are everywhere, you’ll find pizza and sandwiches at all of them.
It’s In the Preparation
And it took me a while to realize it but cafes only sell preprepared food. This may be a ridiculous revelation, but it just never occurred to me. Everything from sandwiches to pizza to pasta, is all prepared ahead of time and simply warmed up when requested.
The preparation became blatantly obvious to me when we arrived in Rome and there was a cafe with my long lost friend, the omelet. I was pleasantly surprised. I had wanted a real (by my American standards) filling breakfast for weeks.
So I order the Fantasy Omelet (the only choice) which I was told included ham and cheese and they could add bacon. I just asked for it how it came and he said ok and that he would bring out toast so I would have something to start with.
Alright, I thought but I’m fine with just the omelet. So 10 minutes pass and Marla’s salad and bread, not toast, come out. I did have a bit of the bread to tide me over but I was eagerly awaiting that omelet. Then another 5-10 minutes and a plate with half a loaf of toasted bread is brought out with jam.
Apparently this was my bread to hold me over. At this point, 20 maybe 30 minutes in, I’m thinking to myself that they’re out back shaking a chicken to try to get it to lay an egg. Omelets are quick, I make them all the time but our waiter seemed to know that it was going to be quite a while before it was ready.
That’s when I remembered the glass cases always stocked with pizza and pasta and realized that nothing is cooked when you order it. Prepare ahead of time and warm it, that’s the cafe way. Again, that’s probably obvious to some people but it’s one of those things that I never thought about. Anyway who knows, my 30-40 minute omelet meal may have required them to call in the cook from home just to make it for me (that’s highly unlikely but I like to imagine that they either were shaking chickens or a guy was feverishly weaving in and out of traffic to come and make me breakfast).
It was just an ok meal. I had been craving eggs, but eggs like at home so of course I was a bit disappointed, but at least I learned a lesson. If you want something from a cafe make sure it’s in the glass showcase ready to go because if you’re starving you may have a long wait ahead of you. Oh and if it’s not in the glass case it probably costs quite a bit of money. I think that omelet was around 18€.
An American Breakfast
By way of points and some planning we had a stellar 4 star hotel lined up for the end of our time in Rome. We were originally booked for 3 nights however when we arrived we were told that our room was still occupied by the previous inhabitant because he was sick. No room = not good, sick person in it = even worse.
The hotel they sent us to for the night was nice, and apparently also a 4 star, but no where near as nice as The Duke, which we ended up staying in for the next 2 nights as planned. It’s worth mentioning that on the way out we heard a lady complaining about their room not being available and being sent to a different hotel, so the skeptical side of me says that this is a regular occurrence and they may just overbook, put people up somewhere cheaper, and pocket the difference.
Anyway when we got to The Duke and had our first breakfast it was finally the breakfast I know and love. Scrambled eggs, sausage (the same as in London but cooked perfectly), bacon (and not ham fried to look like bacon like everywhere else, real bacon), fruit, and so much more. Basically they catered their breakfast to my American taste buds and I thoroughly appreciated it.
It feels a bit obnoxious to criticize foods when traveling, like when Marla heard someone say that Italian food in the States is better than in Italy (maybe she only ate at cafes), but hopefully my thoughts on the lack of Primal European foods comes off less as a criticism, of which I have no right to criticize, but as an affirmation that continuing my typical eating style when traveling abroad is challenging.
Typical English and generally European breakfasts are, for the most part, tasty (sweets, breads and jams), however my preference is Primal (meat, fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds) not only for the health benefits, but the good feelings and energy that Primal eating creates.
If you want to know more about Primal nutrition be sure to check out The Primal Blueprint. It’s an excellent book that will open your eyes to the important connection between your eating, your energy and your overall health. It’s one of only a few books that I find myself constantly recommending. It’s a great one.
What does a typical breakfast look like in your neck of the woods? Let us know in the comments.