Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions Ten thousand years ago, when I was in my 20s, I spent a couple of months in Taiwan. My college roommate had married a Chinese guy and was clearly going to stay there, and I was in between jobs, and I wanted to see what her life was going to be like, so off I went. We were so young that it never occurred to us that having a third person move in with a couple who had just gotten married might not be the greatest idea, although I have to say, for the most part we all got along swimmingly. Emil taught me how to sing the directions home for a taxi driver so I wouldn’t get lost, and Constance helped me get a couple of little English teaching jobs, and all in all, it was a fine adventure.

So, every morning, I’d venture forth from my little room (which was actually a hut built on top of the roof of the building) and out into the market for breakfast. Emil is a musician, so he and Constance were never up in the mornings, but me, I’m a morning gal and breakfast is kind of crucial to my ability to function. So, off I’d take my illiterate, non-Chinese-speaking self into the slightly frightening market in search of the English newspaper and my morning bing.

My morning bing was made by an older lady, cooking on a converted oil barrel. She’d chop up a scallion and throw it on the griddle with a little oil. While the scallion sizzled, she’d beat one egg with a little toasted sesame oil, then spread that out on the griddle too. On top of that went a thin pancake. She’d let it all cook for a second to adhere, then flip it over, and roll it up. The rolled egg pancake would cook for a couple of minutes, then she’d pull it off, cut it into slices, plop it in a plastic bag with a squirt of soy sauce and sesame oil, and off I’d go home with my little breakfast. An egg bing, an orange, some tea and the English paper would keep me occupied for most of the morning on my Taipei rooftop.

I must have made ten thousand bings in the years since my time in Taiwan because the thing about a bing is that you can put anything in it. Some mornings it’s a plain green scallion bing, some mornings I put in whatever leftover greens I have. Sometimes I eat a bing with a little soy/sesame oil sauce, sometimes, like this morning, with a dollop of thick greek yoghurt and a drizzle of olive oil. As spring arrives, I tend to wander out and see what has come up in the garden — young chard, spinach, mustard greens, arugula — all of it is good in a bing. A nice bing, an orange cut into wedges, a cup of tea. Still the breakfast of champions.

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