One of the best breakfasts I ever found was a Scottish Sunday breakfast at the Metropole Hotel in Brighton, a little holiday town on the coast of southern England. The buffet was almost as high as the frightful waves that bashed against the rocky shore some five-hundred yards outside the hotel’s fortified storm windows.
It was January and we had bravely been out for our morning constitutional, walking against the wind, virtually alone on the promenade, the gusts blowing so hard that we had to walk with our heads down, unable to look up enough to know if the moisture hitting our faces was ocean spume or sleet.
Spotting the huge elegant, glass doors of the grand hotel and seeing the sign that read “Hot Breakfast Served Here,” we ducked inside, price be damned. Shaking the water from our coats, we came face-to-face with a breakfast banquet that would have impressed Bonnie Prince Charlie and all the royals at Balmoral Castle.
But the best part was this: Even the “meatiest” traditional dishes, like haggis, black sausage, and the scramble, were vegan!
Ever since I rescued a little pig on a farm in Maryland many years ago, the smell of bacon cooking in a pan has made me shudder. Pig flesh gives off a strong smell that I used to find inviting, but now I associate it with that little fellow and all those other little piglets who have to endure having their tails and part of their ears cut off on factory farms. It no longer calls to me, it repulses me.
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So much for bacon. What about eggs?
I don’t know what the people who made the movie Chicken Run found out about real-life egg farms, but it was probably an eye-opening experience. Carla Bennett, author of Living in Harmony With Animals, calls the plight of the hens who grow up crowded together in sheds “like going from shell to hell.” From personal experience I know how you have to cover your nose and try not to breathe in the laying sheds as the ammonia fumes from the accumulated waste of thousands of hens, all kept in constant light to produce an egg every twenty-two hours, assault your senses. I think of that now any time I smell an egg cooking.
But in Brighton, in the cozy hotel breakfast room, the smells were of hot buns, toast, Scotch porridge oats, syrups, fresh fruits, and other welcoming food. The breakfast should have come as no surprise, for Brighton is “vegan heaven,” part old hippie commune and part ultra-progressive hideaway. It is so special that both the Tories and the Labour party choose it as the place to hold their annual conventions, and it is where King George III went in the 1700s to “take the waters” for his health. In Brighton, he also built an enormous folly, the Royal Palace Pavilion in the style of the Taj Mahal. Within ten years its roof was leaking and its drains were clogged, but thanks to massive repairs, you can still walk through it and see the old four poster beds in which a probably hungover King George took his own breakfast.
Brighton is also where vegans want for nothing: Even the seaside fish and chip shops serve veggie pies and veggie burgers. As it turned out, even our own hotel had vegan “bangers”-sausages-on its breakfast menu.
Starting your morning with protein gives a body and your mood a good boost, but protein does not have to come from meat. Beans, for example, are packed with the stuff. And, in England, as in much of South America, beans are a breakfast staple. Both come with tomato sauce, either as the “gravy” of the English baked beans, served on toast, or as salsa with the frijoles on a tortilla. In the U.S., the old bacon and egg breakfast, which would once have been worked off in the fields and ditches by laborers, and, to some extent, by walking briskly to and from the office, now haunts the thighs, clogs the arteries, and contributes to the paunch of today’s population. However, soy sausage, tofu scramble, and all manner of healthier, less fatty, yet protein-rich substitutes, many made from soybeans, are taking their place in humane and health-conscious households.
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Fabulous soy “bacon” and “sausages” are in most supermarket freezer cases. Here are some favorites: