I couldn’t skip breakfast if I tried. Even if I wake up late, which I seem to be making a habit of, I still manage to eat something that resembles breakfast before having lunch. To me, breakfast is the symbol of a new beginning, another chance to have a happy and healthy day. When I was in Canada, my breakfast always involved a smoothie or freshly pressed juice. Since I started traveling six months ago, I’ve encountered less than five blenders and zero juicers. Naturally, I’ve had to open up to other options. In recent weeks, I’ve had many different things for breakfast, following along with the traditions of our hosts in each city.
In Utrecht, the Netherlands, we were introduced to the Dutch tradition of eating sprinkles on toast for breakfast. At first, I thought this was beyond weird. I thought it was crazy! But, eventually, our hosts convinced me to give it a try. I didn’t stick with the ultra traditional combination of toast, butter and chocolate sprinkles. Instead, I opted for some peanut butter, chocolate sprinkles and a few pink and white little mice. The pink and white mice are a special type of sprinkle, a sugar coated anise seed, that’s typically reserved for baby showers. When it’s a girl, friends and family of the mother-to-be eat toast with pink mice, and when it’s a boy they have blue mice. I have to admit, it was good enough that I went back for seconds. If you want to try this wacky breakfast treat for yourself, look for the puur chocolate sprinkles that are made without milk.
Another interesting Dutch breakfast treat is slices of gingerbread loaf. This sweet loaf has a texture similar to pound cake. John really liked this one! You can find gingerbread at every supermarket and most brands we came across were vegan.
Dutch people love bread, it’s a big part of the food culture in the Netherlands. That’s why they have so many varieties of bread and so many things to put on it. While staying in Almere with Chris and Harald of Vegalicious, we often had fruit and freshly warmed rolls with savoury sunflower seed spread for breakfast. The sunflower seed spread is very popular, and comes in many flavours including basil, garlic and onion. It’s delicious, and can be generously spread on bread or crackers to make a nice snack or compliment a meal at any hour of the day. It’s available at most health food stores and costs €2.00-€3.00 Euros ($2.51-3.77 USD).
On days when we aren’t in the mood for bread, we revert to our old ways and enjoy bottled smoothies. Sure they’re not as good as the smoothies we’d make at home, but they work. The Albert Heijn supermarkets in the Netherlands have a reasonably priced line of (semi) fresh fruit juices, selling for €2.00 Euros ($2.51 USD) a pop.
When we’re craving something light and smoothies aren’t available, we whip up a fruit plate. In Cork, Ireland, half a grapefruit, pear, orange and apple did the trick.
The people we stayed with in Antwerp, Belgium rarely ate bread. They made oatmeal each morning and topped it with an assortment of fresh fruit, coconut, dried berries, nuts and oat flakes. We embraced this morning tradition and had lots of fun experimenting with different toppings.
Our Antwerp hosts also loved cooking fruit, adding a dash of cinnamon, and enjoying it solo.
In Ghent, Belgium, we visited Oud Huis Himschoot (1, Groentenmarkt), the oldest bakery in the town. We bought a loaf of whole wheat bread with chocolate fondant pieces, a dairy-free alternative to chocolate chips, for about €2.00 Euros ($2.51 USD). This was a small price to pay for such a rare find. We were so surprised and happy to learn it was vegan! Our hosts didn’t let us leave Ghent without trying the famous Lotus Speculoos (also called speculaas in the Netherlands, spekulatius in Germany and spéculoos in France) spread on our chocolate bread. This popular spread has the consistency of a super smooth peanut butter and the flavour of the Speculoos cookies, which are spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. It’s super sweet, super addictive, and super awesome. We tried some of the cookies too, which were also very tasty. Speculoos cookies used to be reserved for winter holiday celebrations but are now available all year round and often served along side coffee and tea in cafes. The spread costs about €3.00 Euros ($3.77 USD), but would be worth so much more to anyone who received it as a gift. The cookies are cheap, €2.00 Euros ($2.51 USD) for a pack of about 20 cookies.
We recently enjoyed a pancake breakfast with our Couch Surfing host in Berlin, Jana. She pancakes from scratch, using whole wheat flour and apple slices. We topped them with chocolate spread and coconut. They were delicious! We used Cremino Dunkle Creme mit Kakaostückchen but there are enough vegan brands of this stuff that you’ll be overwhelmed with choices.
Jana didn’t have a traditional blender, but did have a hand blender, which she taught me to use as a smoothie maker. Before our lesson, I’d only ever thought of using a hand blender to puree soup. For the first time in two months, we had homemade fruit smoothies with frozen berries, banana and rice milk. Next breakfast mission: homemade waffles!