After excitedly agreeing to pen Gourmet Breakfasts for the GENIUS, the oft-heard refrain “writing a book is like giving birth” reverberated in my mind like a tuning fork in an earthquake. Once those tremors settled, however, I came to learn it was more, as noted food writer Barbara Kafka remarked, "like giving birth to an elephant." I can state unequivocally that my familiarity and understanding of obstetrics and childbirth, be it human or pachyderm, hasn’t been from firsthand experience and, being a man, my plight vis-à-vis childbirth is naturally relegated to the role of the observer/supporter. So while, no, I may not undergo the physiological stresses of maternity, I can certainly share in its seemingly unending emotional and psychological torment, and its ensuing catharsis.
I recall the day, many gestation periods ago, when the seed for this book was planted. A sunny Florida morning belied the cool February weather outside, yet conditions seemed ideal for the pitch, at least they did inside my head. “Breakfasts ... gooouuuurmet breakfasts,” I cooed, as the publisher and acquisitions editor listened in via conference call. “Breakfasts that are the opposite of quick and cheap ... breakfasts that are complex, utilize the finest ingredients, and challenge the skills, passion and, possibly, the pocketbook of the home cook.” Then came that inevitable period when time stood still, when I waited with bated breath for the proverbial anvil to flatten my hopes like a pancake, or for the skies to open and shower manna, gourmet or otherwise, upon me.
Well, dear reader, I’m certain that by now you’ve deduced the outcome of that February phone call and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. Like good food and drink, Gourmet Breakfasts for the GENIUS is a book meant to be savored; its words pondered and chewed on. Well, not literally chewed on, unless of course your palate veers towards pulping chemicals and coating binders.
If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, logic would dictate that this book might be one of the most important ever published. Author and nutritionist Adelle Davis said "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper." The notion runs counter to the grab ‘n’ go/drive-thru/"put it in a to-go cup" approach many of us have towards the first meal of day. This book firmly roots itself in Davis’ ideal—make breakfast a royal feast.
Admittedly, Gourmet Breakfasts for the GENIUS flies in the face of the attention-span-testing conventions of our post-postmodern world. A friend of mine half-jokingly described me as being contrarian, and this book is certainly spawned from that half of me. Some have remarked that a cookbook focused on recipes that require meticulous preparation, innovative tools and techniques, pricey ingredients and, most notably, time, is just plain crazy, to which I respond with Roman philosopher Seneca’s wise words: “There is no great genius without a touch of madness.”
In my capacity as food critic for the Orlando Weekly, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting more than a few culinary geniuses over the past decade—chefs whose restaurants have earned them accolades, awards, and fame. But, like so many of you, the first culinary genius to come into my life (and vice-versa) was my mother. When it comes to replicating the dishes she prepared during my childhood (and adolescence and adulthood), I don’t even come close. So while this book presents an amalgam of recipes procured from the culinary giants whose paths I’ve crossed, I’m certain they, too, have found that there’s nothing quite like mom’s cooking.
My hope, dear reader, is that you’re as passionately curious about the subject matter presented herewith as noted theoretical physicist and all-round genius Albert Einstein was about our universe. Yes, some recipes may prove more challenging than others, but every effort has been made to ensure the directions and instructions in this book are clear and detailed. “Everything should be made as simple as possible,” said Einstein, “but not simpler.”
So, I’m happy to announce that this book is simply comprised of five parts:
-Part 1 covers the “Pros of Protein.” You might say it gets to the, ahem, meat of the matter. In addition to recipes comprising the bovine, porcine, piscine, poultry, and ruminant realms of breakfast, it also covers the most integral component of the morning meal—the egg.
-Part 2 is the bread and butter (and batter) covering everything from gourmet griddled cakes, to pastry flakes, to breakfast spreads. There’s a section devoted to my all-time favorite breakfast topper—maple syrup (you can take the boy out of Canada, but you can't take the Canada out of the boy).
-Part 3 takes, in a most literal fashion, a soup-to-nuts approach to gourmet breakfasts. Exotic brothy staples introduce an international flavor profile to the book, while more salubrious concoctions prove that “gourmet” breakfasts don’t necessarily equate to “fatty” breakfasts.
-Part 4 delves into the more nuanced aspects of the rise-and-shine repast, some of which take on a decidedly adult theme. There are recipes intended on pleasing your lover, and pre-noon prescriptions geared towards bibulous-minded readers. If you find yourself in a necessitous state, we’ll show you how to mask your impecunity.
-Finally, we finish off with a genius touch by focusing on the tangible intangibles to help your morning machinations, then introduce you to the masterminds who made this book possible.
Just keep in mind that creativity is a force to be roused once you step into the kitchen. In sometimes vain attempts at originality, I often take liberties with ingredients, techniques, and measurements in recipes given to me, and I'm surprised at how often they work.
On the subject of measurements, the trend nowadays (and, no doubt, in days to come) is towards weighing ingredients on a scale, as opposed to using the standard measurements of cooking. A “cup,” “pinch,” or “tablespoon” of anything can vary greatly from one individual to another, but an ounce (or a gram) is unchanging and consistent. That said, this book employs the old standard kitchen measurements, though that might change in subsequent reprints. Accuracy certainly has its place in the kitchen, though the process of trial and error can help you suit the flavor and textures of a dish to your particular tastes. “Anyone who has never made a mistake,” said Einstein, “has never tried anything new.”
Now then, let’s get cracking.