Tag Archives: adventure

Why I Ate 78 Breakfasts at 78 Different Places Last Year

A coffee cup I drew

A coffee cup I drew

I hereby declare that I have done it. For one year (from 1.11.2013 – 1.17.2014), I ate breakfast at a different Bay Area restaurant every Friday before work and on some weekends. I achieved both my written goal of eating breakfast at a different place every Friday and my actual goal of simply eating tons and tons of breakfast.

I went to the furthest reaches of San Francisco and the Bay Area, from the Marina to Glen Park, from Santa Rosa to Santa Clara. I traveled 441.7 miles by bus, car and train to 78 different places of breakfast-eating, consuming $1258 dollars worth of food, 131 eggs, 90 slices of bacon, 98 pancakes, and 234 cups of coffee. I also drew one coffee cup.

This is all well and good. I managed to spend a lot of money and eat many hash browns with my butt in many different styles of chairs and booths, but so what? Why did I do this? Why did I wake up so early and go so far, not even searching for the best food or service? Why did I spend so many hours and dollars on this project and persevere even towards the end when I’d eaten my breakfast passion into the dust (for the time being) and felt I’d seen everything and that I just wanted to sleep in for once.

It wasn’t just a meal, or just a restaurant. Breakfast for me was outer space. It was my Sahara and my Antarctica and the Wild West, the region I was destined to explore and chronicle. 

Pork Store Cafe BiscuitsAnd I wanted to find breakfast, to seek it in its natural habitat, to consume and know it inside and out and to know its people. From the crust of a sourdough loaf to the tenderness of a scrambled egg and the crisp release of grease that comes from biting into a perfectly cooked hash brown.

I wanted to make a portrait of a ritual and to examine it until I knew its every detail and their meanings, to paint a complete picture of breakfast, to tell its entire story and not miss a thing, to climb hills and descend into valleys, to walk on darkened doorsteps and to step into empty places, to look into the faces of strangers and try to place them, to ask of them to serve me food in exchange for money and some of my time and for some of my thoughts and skin cells and saliva left on the used silverware.

But most of all, I set out to eat, to consume mountains of hashbrowns and toast and eggs, stacks of pancakes, whole sticks of butter and gallons of syrup. I wanted to explore using my senses and let my brain take a back seat and just shut up for a second.

Friday morning was mine and it was special. Every morning that I got to work with my stomach full of breakfast and another journey under my belt, I’d squeezed a little extra life into my day. It was my secret, that before I started doing work for anyone else, I’d done something for me and my goals. I wanted adventure, and that’s why I did it and have lived to tell the tale. What’s next? I don’t know. But it’s gonna be epic.

By the way, this is not the last you’ve heard of this. There is much, much more breakfast to be served.

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Why I Don’t Give Restaurant Recommendations

Ghee-colored pancakes

Ghee-colored pancakes

Over the past year, I’ve eaten breakfast at 43 different restaurants in the Bay Area.

Every Friday morning, I wake at the godly hour of 5:15 am and leave the house by 6:30 to go eat breakfast at 7:00 at a new restaurant – always a new restaurant.

Every time, to what extent possible, I get breakfast meat, pancakes, hashbrowns, eggs, coffee, and toast. It’s a feast for one, for my heart and soul. Do you know what color the sunshine is on Friday mornings at 7:00 am as it streams over a short stack of pancakes? It’s butter. It’s clarified butter. It’s ghee.

Listen here – the  hours between 5 and 7 am are a secret. No one knows about them, and during those hours the most extraordinary things occur. Different buildings appear and familiar ones change shape.

Houseboats float in the air next to colorful songbirds, and both are feathered and free. The morning streets are gleeful, speaking with each other in excitement about the coming day. AT&T park enjoys its morning coffee before being filled up with and vomited on by Giants fans. The Embarcadero bends and sways in a morning song before it’s drowned out by business heels tramping to their desks.

And if you’re out at that hour, you’re one of the lucky ones. You get to see the other side.

Restaurants are magical in the morning. Only the most faithful, the most loyal patrons are present, eating their usuals. The staff is chatting with each other, getting ready for the day. Everyone is at their best. There’s no anger, no stress. Everyone sighs in bliss together. A plate of pancakes at 7:30 am is unlike a plate of pancakes at 11:00 am. Corned beef hash at 7:19 am is unlike corned beef hash at 11:02 am. The former is a treasure, the latter a commodity. The former is enchanted, the latter ordinary.

Restaurants that open at 6:30 and 7 am love their patrons and open early for that reason, to serve them the food they need to get to where they’re going. Sometimes the upholstery on the booths is cracking and the stuffing is coming out. Sometimes the decor made up of dusty fake plants and faded Polaroids on the wall, but at the best of places, this all points to a love of people. And what could make the food taste better than brotherly love?

I have an unmitigated love for magic breakfast. Each time I get up and venture into the morning world, it’s the best experience of my life.

When others hear me speak of my breakfast love and of my many adventures, they often ask me which one was my favorite. I instantly freeze up and have no idea how to respond. What do they want me to tell them? Where they can get the best food? The most pleasant atmosphere? The edgiest cuisine? The cutest waiters?

Am I a god that I should judge these things for other people?

For me, the hot stack of 7:25 am pancakes in front of me is always the best food I’ve ever tasted. The snaggle-toothed, wide-hipped waitress with a bad dye job is always the most beautiful woman in the world. A mostly empty restaurant with yellowing posters of Hawaii on the wall is always the most incredible atmosphere I’ve ever experienced. The gentle song of coffee refills, newspaper shuffling, and morning phlegm-clearings is always the most lovely music I’ve ever heard.

Come with me one morning at 7:00 am, and maybe you’ll see what I see too. Until then, be wary of asking me for restaurant recommendations. They might not prove as useful as you might guess.

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If you want to read more about how much I love breakfast, check out these posts: Oh My God, It’s Breakfast in Istanbul, I am the Breakfast Whisperer, Your Life Coach Recommends Biscuits from Pork Store Cafe

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Step Out of the Van and Into a Postcard

View on the way to our starting point at Sankaver.

We’d heard about the Gelada baboons and wanted to see them. This was all we knew. We didn’t consider the fact that sunny mountain sides are perilous for pasty white skin, that cool breezes turn lips into raisins, or the fact that sitting inside and using the internet for the past five months had in no way prepared us for our 3 day mountain trek at altitudes ranging between 12000-14000 feet.

Chapstick-less, sunscreen-less, and fitness-less, we lumbered into a van at 5:20 am Friday morning and made for the mountains in the most uncomfortable car ride of my life. It was the equivalent of traveling in a mobile washing machine and I would rather re-experience birth than go through those painful five hours again.

We wound higher and higher on gravel roads, through land patch-worked with crops and grass, and the sun was shining over the peaks. We hadn’t even done anything and it was already beautiful. All of the sudden, the van stopped, our driver opened the door, and we were tumbled out onto the mountain.

I did nothing to earn this view.

At 10:20 we started our trek and at 10:25 we saw our first incredible view. It was like we had stepped out of the van and into the Google Image search I did of the Simien Mountains a few weeks earlier. Somehow we had reached close to the top of the world and were looking over infinite valleys and peaks that tumbled and cut into one another. Hawks flapped off the side of a mountain and were instantly soaring thousands of feet in the air. I had never wanted to fly so badly in my life as I did while I was in those mountains, to be able to go from standing on the ground to gliding ten thousand feet over it in a single breath.

We ate it up, taking pictures and laughing, giddy with the novelty of “trekking,” which at that point had been nothing more than a car ride and five minutes of walking amidst intensely gold grass set against the blue, blue sky. The entire world felt right and fresh and new.

Eventually we hit our first uphill and realized the journey would not be all smiles and baboons. We would have to pay for some of the views with our own sweat and blisters and sunburns. Damn the altitude.

View from our tent at Geech.

The first day of hiking ended at a campsite near Geech village, which in my mind is distinguished by the fact that a never ending hill preceded it. After only four hours, my legs had been replaced with lead stumps and I was silently bargaining with God to make it all end.

Miraculously, we finally arrived and collapsed as our awesome porters made us tea and then helped set up our tent at the edge of the golden plain. The cows went home as the sun set, the sky fading through shades of purple and blue as stars began their twinkling. Soon we wrapped ourselves tight against the mountain cold and fell fast asleep, our bodies resting up for another day of overwhelming natural beauty.

How did we get so lucky?

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The Sun: Worth Remembering

Gah! The sun! Hissssss!

Well I’ve really gone and done it now. I spent too much time inside and forgot what the sun looked like. My mom told me this would happen but I didn’t believe her. I never believed her.

She always said, “Emily, make sure you go outside so you can remember the sun. You can brush your scales off out there and smell the air with your tongue and slither around for a bit. Don’t stay in that cave all the time! Once you forget the sun, it’s hard to get used to the light again.”

I would hiss at her, “Leave me alone!” And I didn’t listen to her, even though I knew better.

I didn’t think I’d been inside for that long when I woke up one morning and saw a hideous substance pouring in through the crack between my curtains.  The stuff was garishly bright and I had no idea where it was coming from. I wanted to make it go away but was afraid of getting it all over me. It made me uncomfortably warm.

When I got up to shut the curtains and complete the darkness, I accidentally tripped and fell because I apparently hadn’t used my legs in a long time. While scrambling for support on my way down, I ripped the curtain from the wall and was blinded by a great BALL OF FIRE leeching heat right through the glass. And I thought:

GOOD GOD WHAT IS THAT THING?

As I lay on the ground, painful memories came rushing back to me. I had seen this monstrosity before, been hurt by it before. Endless peeling of scarlet flesh, droplets of sweat stinging my eyes, days lasting eternities. How could I have forgotten? This abomination was the sun, the enemy, its penetrating light revealing all. What horror.

I was on the brink of despair. Then other memories flooded my mind, pleasant ones. I remembered sitting in a warm armchair and watching yellow rays dancing through tree leaves all speckled like. The sun slipping below the horizon and making the clouds neon. The golden hours of spring days when everything is beautiful. Those were pretty. Maybe the sun wasn’t all bad.

Strange how I could forget something that caused me so much pain and joy. I need to slither outside more, but first I need to take a good long nap.

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Walking on Feet in San Francisco

I walked almost 8.7 nautical miles (10 miles) today in my Sperry’s and skinny jeans (no prairie dress yet). I wore a black jacket and sometimes it was a little too warm in the sun, but I liked having it for when I was in the shade. I tied it around my waist when I wasn’t using it. As the day wore on I talked louder and more often to myself, to the point where it was nearly a constant conversation, but I feel like you can do that here in San Francisco, where people can be who they want to be. I want to be a wildly gesturing person on the street wearing a puffy black jacket tied around her waist.

San Francisco is easily one of the most beautiful and livable cities that I have ever been too. I’ve been to cities in Morocco or Colorado, for example, that are beautiful to visit and quaint to look at but would likely be quite suffocating to live in, like beautiful quaint hands slowly closing around my throat. But San Francisco’s hands are not suffocating. They wear funky, locally made jewelry and make funny gestures. I like San Francisco’s hands.

When I am in a new city, I love exploring it on foot, without a map or an agenda, and that’s what I did today. I had made a halfhearted plan to go see stuff but then ended up wandering my day away, which I believe is always a good decision. There’s nothing I like more than the feeling of complete freedom, being in a city in the world with no agenda and the ability to follow any whim I have, like to poke around the campus of University of San Francisco, or to hunt down a church spire I saw gleaming far away, or to turn onto a random street because the trees look really fluffy or because the sunlight  is hitting it just right at the golden hour in the late afternoon when everything is beautiful and I have to follow the beauty.

Walking in San Francisco is unlike walking in other cities. I would be walking on a street lined by those beautiful houses that remind me of whimsically decorated gingerbread men and all of the sudden in the distance, the street ended in a crest, over which I could see nothing. Did the world end? Was there a breathtaking view of azure bay water? Yet another park? The urge to climb these hills was impossible to fight, and climb I did, and sure enough, I would be rewarded with a lookout into the distance, either towards more hills covered in trees with bright buildings clustered around the bases or the bay with its islands and other bodies of land reaching into it. I didn’t want to leave the crests.

In San Francisco flowers bloom in the winter. I like it here.

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