Ah, breakfast. The most important meal of the day. According to Linda Everett and Richard Perry’s cookbook, Retro Breakfast: Memorable Meals Morning, Noon or Night, breakfast isn’t what it used to be. Instead of being a wake-up feast of comfort food and love on a plate (or in a bowl), it’s now cold, impersonal, and manufactured by unimaginative corporations who couldn’t care less what they’ve done to American food. Everett and Perry set out to remedy this deficiency with Retro Breakfast, which has everything one needs to redress the balance and make breakfast wonderful again. At least, that’s how they present it.
Ordinarily I like to review cookbooks by cooking out of them, but the problem is that Retro Breakfast doesn’t really think outside the box. This isn’t a bad thing, though–a lot of the recipes are fun and look really tasty, and what’s nice is that they seem to be family recipes passed down through the generations. Other than that, the book seems like it’s geared for the novice home cook who may have no idea how to scramble eggs, only it doesn’t provide much help in the instructional department.
On the plus side, there’s a nice selection of omelets, although again, they’re nothing especially innovative. There’s a Denver omelet, but the book calls it “Colorado’s Best Omelet.” Uh huh, very smooth, guys. There’s also an herb omelet and a seafood omelet, but I would say the best bet is the Woo Ling’s Cafe Omelet. All the authors would have had to do is omit the cheese and they would have basically had an Egg Foo Young in omelet form, or maybe a Japanese okonamiyaki with fewer calories.
Other than that, there are a lot of egg recipes, including one of my son’s favorites, which the book calls Toad-In-the-Hole, but which we call gas house eggs (The Toad in the Hole I grew up with is sausages baked in batter and served with mushroom gravy and mashed potatoes, but I digress. It’s all good.). Anyway, gas house eggs or Toad-in-the-Hole, or whatever they’re called, are awesome–butter-toasted bread with an egg cracked into the center. Really, really delicious.
One thing that surprised me, though, is that there were no recipes for Joe’s Special. It’s a longtime California specialty, so it’s odd that the book doesn’t include it. It does have a Hangtown Fry recipe, although in California it’s usually done as a scramble and not a casserole. Oh well.
Another sizeable category is side dishes, and Retro Breakfast covers all the bases. Hash browns, fried green tomatoes, and apples in various states. And casseroles are big players as well, with tons of quiches and egg bakes.
Where Retro Breakfast really shines, though, are when it tackles foods that might be more unique to the average cook, such as jams, spreads and bread-related goods. The latter in particular probably takes up more space in the book than any other category. Tons of waffle recipes, lots of muffins, and plenty of French toast. The baking section is also the only one in the book I’ve actually cooked out of–I made the Powder River Valley Breakfast Biscuits. I had to add extra cream to the dough, but they’re really good. Ham, cheese, cheddar, and green onions…yum.
Again, my biggest beef with Retro Breakfast is that it needs more instructional tips and tricks. If the aim is to revive the art of breakfast, the novice cook might want to know how long to knead biscuit dough or how to separate eggs. A few sidebars and factoids would have been nice, and it would have been fun to see more about the history of various breakfast foods or how much the various ingredients cost in different years. And since we eat with our eyes, some photos of the foods might have upped the temptation levels.
Also, some of the information the book does have is flatly untrue, like when they say white eggs are an invention of large-scale chicken farmers and nutritionally inferior to brown ones. This is a myth; the color of an egg has to do with the type of chicken it comes out of, not where the chicken laid it. Eggs can be white, cream, green, brown, or blue, and they all give the same health benefits.
Nostalgia is Breakfast’s agenda, though, not necessarily accuracy, and therefore it should be taken with a grain of salt. Yeah, pun intended. It’s a fun book to flip through, liberally sprinkled with nineteen-fifties artwork and delectable-looking food. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Okeydokey, thanks for reading, all, and I hope to see you tomorrow. Not gonna spoil anything, but I’ll only say two words: Deja vu. Are you hooked yet? The answer is on the way…