“Americans tend to lack imagination when it comes to breakfast,” begins Malia Wollan in an article that appeared on New York Times last week. Her observation is based on a series of photographs taken by American born Hannah Whitaker, who recently visited with families in seven countries, to photograph sleepy eyed kids peering out over their breakfasts plates containing meals ranging from cold cereals to ham-and-cheese rolls to boiled potatoes.
Cornflakes and chocolate milk, are universal, but in many places children also eat things that would strike the average American as strange, or worse. How does rice and putrid soybean goop, or sour milk, for instance, sound? Or steamed cake made from fermented lentils and rice, a popular breakfast meal in southern India. In countries of Latin America, young children often take coffee with milk in the mornings. “The idea that children should have bland, sweet food is a very industrial presumption,” observes Krishnendu Ray, a professor of food studies at New York University who grew up in India. “In many parts of the world, breakfast is tepid, sour, fermented and savory.”
Hannah Whitaker photo series supplements the work done, on similar vein, by artists such as Peter Menzel (Hungry Planet and What People Eat Around the World), Gabriele Galimberti (Toy Stories) and James Mollison (Where Children Sleep).
Doga Gunce Gursoy, 8 years, Istanbul. Her Saturday morning spread is quite elaborate. It includes honey and clotted cream, called kaymak, on toasted bread; green and black olives; fried eggs with a spicy sausage called sucuk; butter; hard-boiled eggs; thick grape syrup (pekmez) with tahini on top; an assortment of sheep-, goat- and cow-milk cheeses; quince and blackberry jams; pastries and bread; tomatoes, cucumbers, white radishes and other fresh vegetables; kahvaltilik biber salcasi, a paste made of grilled red peppers; hazelnut-flavored halvah, the dense dessert; milk and orange juice.
Nathanaël Witschi Picard, 6 years old, Paris. His weekday breakfast consists of a single kiwi; tartine, an open-faced baguette with butter and blackberry jam; cold cereal with milk; and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Saki Suzuki, 2 ¾ years old, Tokyo. Her breakfast consist of a fermented soybean dish called natto, white rice, miso soup, kabocha squash simmered in soy sauce and sweet sake (kabocha no nimono), pickled cucumber, rolled egg omelet (tamagoyaki) and grilled salmon.
Emily Kathumba, 7 years old, Chitedze, Malawi. Emily eats cornmeal porridge called phala with soy and groundnut flour; deep-fried fritters made of cornmeal, onions, garlic and chiles, along with boiled sweet potato and pumpkin; and a dark red juice made from dried hibiscus flowers and sugar. When she can, Emily likes to drink sweet black tea in the mornings, a common beverage for Malawian children.
Birta Gudrun Brynjarsdottir, 3 ½ years old, Reykjavik, Iceland. Birta’s oatmeal porridge called hafragrautur, a staple breakfast in Iceland, is cooked in water or milk and often served with brown sugar, maple syrup, butter, fruit or surmjolk (sour milk). Birta also takes a swig of lysi, or cod-liver oil rich in vitamin D, to compensate for the lack of sunlight during winter.
Viv Bourdrez, 5 years old, Amsterdam. For Viv, breakfast is a glass of milk with bread, unsalted butter and sweet sprinkles, which come in multiple flavors (chocolate, vanilla, fruit) and sizes (small, large, shavings). A government-run website promoting tourism boasts that every day the Dutch eat at least 750,000 slices of bread topped with the chocolate sprinkles called hagelslag (‘‘hailstorm’’), making it the country’s most popular bread topping.
Aricia Domenica Ferreira, 4 years old, and Hakim Jorge Ferreira Gomes, 2 years old, São Paulo, Brazil.
Aricia’s pink sippy cup is full of chocolate milk, but her brother Hakim’s cup contains coffee. For many Brazilian parents, coffee for kids is a cultural tradition, they believe helps their children concentrate in school. Brother and sister are eating ham and cheese as well as pão com manteiga, bread with butter.
Phillip Kamtengo, 4 years old, and Shelleen Kamtengo, 4 years old, Chitedze, Malawi
Phillip and his twin sister, Shelleen, start their day with a sweet, cornbread-like cake called chikondamoyo, cooked in an aluminum pot over a fire. Breakfast for the Kamtengo twins and their older siblings also includes boiled potatoes and black tea with a heaping spoonful or two of sugar.
Koki Hayashi, 4 years old, Tokyo. Koki eats green peppers stir-fried with tiny dried fish, soy sauce and sesame seeds; raw egg mixed with soy sauce and poured over hot rice; kinpira, a dish of lotus and burdock roots and carrots sautéed with sesame-seed oil, soy sauce and a sweet rice wine called mirin; miso soup; grapes; sliced Asian pear; and milk.
Oyku Ozarslan, 9 years old, Istanbul. She eats brown bread, supplemented with green and black olives, Nutella spread, sliced tomato, hard-boiled egg, strawberry jam, butter soaked in honey and an assortment of Turkish cheeses: among them, a crumbly, feta-like cheese called ezine peyniri; eski kasar, an aged, cow’s milk cheese; and tulum peyniri, a variety of cheese made of goat’s milk that was traditionally aged in a goatskin casing.
Tiago Bueno Young, 3 years old, São Paulo, Brazil. Here, Tiago, sits before cornflakes, banana cake and bisnaguinha, a sweet white bread popular with Brazilian children and served with a mild cream cheese called requeijão.