I like my eggs scrambled with generous dollops of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a dash of paprika. I also like breakfast. It’s my favourite meal of the day, and I have been known to choose hotels on the basis of the breakfast buffet — an emperor’s feast of fruits (diced and sliced), juices (strained and chilled), meats and fish, sausages and bacon, cheeses, potato croquettes, hash browns and jars overflowing with cereals and muesli. There are some where they make pancakes fresh; others where they’re leathery and laid out in dishes; still others where you can feed the mix in one end of a machine and — presto! — out they emerge from the other, tasting like plastic. My favourite coffee shop in Mumbai does great parathas, piping hot dosas and any number of things your cook no longer bothers with at home. Some serve congee by way of diversification, and there are often unspeakable things from South-east Asian countries too gross for a morning meal to mention.
And they have scrambled eggs. No matter which part of the world you’re in, you can be sure that someone is churning out industrial quantities of a gooey mess consisting of egg that appears to have been churned in a Hadron collider with milk or cream. Left to cool, you can see the skin form rapidly across its surface. In New York, the scrambled eggs are like fajitas, only with strange vegetables added to the mix. Mostly, they taste like old rubber, no matter how much pepper you sprinkle over it. Hotels serve the worst scrambled eggs ever.
You have the choice of avoiding scrambled eggs, of course, and believe me, I’ve tried. There’s usually a basket with boiled eggs, and all you have to do is peel off the shell to get a ball you can bounce all the way across the room. I like omelettes quite a bit, too, but there’s always a queue in front of the chef who whisks and tosses and slides them off his skillet with all the expertise of a ballet dancer. I’ve ordered them on occasion and waited for eternity while the toast turned cold.
That’s my other grouse. While my toast curls and dies waiting for the helpful waiter who seems to have forgotten I’d requested fried eggs, another one will dispense fresh-from-the-oven croissants at all the tables around. Maybe I don’t look like a croissant eater, but just once I wish someone would at least ask. The only croissants I manage from the bread basket seem like they were frozen a week ago and might do damage if tossed at somebody. Maybe I can aim one at the neighbouring diner who got served a warm one while I continued to wait for my coffee which, seeing how long ago I’d ordered it, should at least consist of freshly ground beans. Damn, though, if it isn’t cold when it arrives — and served with cold milk to boot.
Guests seem to make the most of what is mostly a complimentary meal. Is this the way they eat at home — mountains of bacon rashers, chocolate melt over waffles, stuffed aloo parathas? They surround themselves with large quantities of food, nibbling their way through pav-bhaji, requesting banana bread, discovering turkey meat as an accompaniment to marmalade. They change their minds midway through their breakfasts, now desiring a cheese soufflé, rejecting it in favour of idlis and spicy sambhar alongside salami or mackerel. Me? I’m still hungry, waiting to find the perfect scrambled eggs some day.