Scientists have no idea where this gene resides. It can’t be on the Y chromosome because the characteristic is exhibited by both men and women and, as my gentle readers will recall from their biology lessons, only chaps have Ys. Also ladyboys. If you have difficulty remembering this, our underpants are designed with a handy reminder, even if it is upside-down. The ability to park between the white lines in a supermarket car park, now that’s a characteristic totally lacking in the female genome so the parking gene is very likely to be found on the Y chromosome, along with hairy ears and understanding why it’s a good idea to have scrums in rugby union, apart from looking at men’s bottoms.
I hear you ask: What are the consequences of not understanding breakfast?
Well, I’m afraid they’re rather serious. Stay in any ordinary hotel in Thailand and the chances are that, as you check in, the nice lady behind reception will tell you that ‘breakfast’ is included in the price. She may even give you some ‘breakfast’ vouchers which will allow you to partake of this experience the next morning.
Your expectations have been raised. Your appetite has been whetted. The next morning you leap out of bed, wash and so on, bound down the stairs like a mountain goat and stride into the restaurant with your hair still wet in anticipation of breaking your night’s fast.
Oh, the disappointment! The heartache. The feeling begins to grow in you that, now you come to think of it, you can probably hold out till lunchtime.
First, there’s the toast. In many hotels, where they operate the serve-yourself buffet style of breakfast, they have those conveyor-belt toasters. You delicately pick up a bit of white ‘bread’ with a pair of tongs and drop it onto the launch-rack of this machine. As the motor whirrs, your slice of bread is whisked rapidly between two heated elements, drops down the back and swings back out the front. Having anticipated a golden-brown confection, the result is a disappointment. You look forlornly at the offering in front of you. It’s still white. You pick it up. It’s warm but it’s still bread.
The machine has a speed setting. Noticing that it’s turned to ‘ultra fast’, you look around before attempting to slow it down. In some hotels, they wedge the knob with sticky tape so that troublesome customers like Kuhn Pobaan can’t tamper with the setting. In such places, there’s no alternative but to put your slice back in the top for another circuit.
You’d think that would do the trick, but no. The understanding of toast is so poor in this country that it can take three or even four runs through a toaster before you get anything approaching a decent marmalade substrate.
Talking of which, in many hotels here, they attempt to palm you off with strawberry jam rather than marmalade. Now, call me old-fashioned, but strawberry jam is what you eat with scones for tea. Take a look at a jar of the stuff in your own cupboard. I’m willing to bet that, on the label in large clear letters it will say, ‘Not to be eaten before three o’clock in the afternoon.’
Lastly, and perhaps most distressingly, is the butter. Because it’s a hot country, the butter here is kept on ice. That means you have to wait at least 20 minutes before the bullet-hard block you put on your plate is soft enough to spread on your toast without ripping it to shreds. And, with what do you spread same on same? Amazingly, in hotels here, they expect you to do this with a butter knife.
The horror! If my grandmother were alive to witness this, she’d go all tart and say something about standards. A butter knife is for transferring the butter from the butter dish to your plate; it is not for spreading butter on your toast. For that you use an ordinary, small knife. Anything else is vulgar.
I am not usually a demanding breakfaster. All I ask is a bit of toast and marmalade to nibble with my coffee. But what if I’m feeling hungrier and wish to go for the cooked option?
Left to their own devices in the morning, people here would eat rice soup, possibly with pork or fish. Or they might eat noodle soup or stir-fried noodles with pork. OK, that’s fine. To the Pobaan mind all of the above is tasty food, but it’s not breakfast. Basically, it’s lunch with the clock turned back.
Hotels in Thailand should stick to what they’re good at. Instead, they try to get a bit sophisticated, a bit international, by offering what they call an ‘American breakfast’. I thought Americans went for an Egg McMuffin or a stack of pancakes drenched with fake maple syrup. But that’s not the take we have on it here. In the sort of hotels I can afford to frequent, you get eggs, bacon and sausage.
For some logistical reason, they have to fry the eggs a couple of days before and keep them in the fridge overnight. No matter how early you get up, I guarantee you will not get a warm fried egg. The bacon is the victim of a faulty Thai-English dictionary. The translation should have read ‘ham’. I don’t know where the recipe comes from but I know what it says: ‘Cut sliced bacon (ham) into tiny squares and keep it in warm water in one of those big silver things with a candle underneath. Expect wastage.’
If the word ‘sausage’ conjures in your mind’s eye a big, juicy, golden-brown Cumberland behemoth, get real. Here were have mini-frankfurters which, for some reason are often slit twice at one end, giving them four arms with which they seem to be crying out for help.
It’s help which, sadly, never comes.