the best of breakfasts (spicy edition)

This being the UK tradition generally dictates that breakfast at a B&B is equally important, if not more so, than the bed. To be considered proper it must be cooked, too: eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms and invariably some type of fried bread. But if you look at the small letters at the bottom of the breakfast menu at Harbour View B&B you can also opt for a Thai Breakfast, which turns out to be a mutable thing, dependent on the whims of the market and the chef for that matter. (This being an island off the coast of an island off the coast of continental Europe, creative substitutions for certain Thai ingredients must often be made) After expressing an interest in Thai food, however, my hostess, Swan Tomkinson, took a certain vested interest in me. “It’s spicy, you know,” she told me on the first morning, trying to warn me off a plate of scrambled eggs with rice and curried rashers. “I love Thai,” I countered. “The spicier the better.” And with that she recognized a kindred spirit: “I will cook you real Thai food.” Over the next five days a challenge ensued. Each day I would ask for something unattainable for breakfast the following morning – green papaya salad one day, pad prik king another – and she would counter with a pretty good approximation, for example substituting cucumbers in place of the green papaya and adding an extra dose of the Thai basil which grows prodigiously in her garden. On day four I was surprised with a plate of larb, the spicy ground pork salad popular in northeastern Thailand. “I’ve been craving larb but had nobody to share it with,” Swan confided, revealing a pang of longing every stranger in a strange land must eventually feel. “Cooking for people makes me happy,” she was quick to add. “Especially food that they like.” Like Thai, I gestured, pushing a plate of freshly picked herbs out of the way, inviting Swan to join me in the most unexpected – and tastiest –  breakfast of my life. “One time, a Russian couple came into the kitchen as I was cooking dinner for me and Alan,” she began. “I was making Beef Stroganoff and they said the smell reminded them of home. ‘Could we have the leftovers for breakfast,’ they asked me.” She laughed at the memory. “Yes, I said, I will make you Beef Stroganoff for breakfast.”

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