When I am travelling and by that I mean, of course, a business trip and NOT “travelling” as in “Me and my fruns went travelling for a year”, which really just means traipsing along the well worn geographic grooves of sex tourism only ever speaking English with a group of dreadlocked wankers who think that they’ve discovered the real Asia because they’ve got a henna tattoo and a travel blog and to whom I say sorry to burst your adventure-bubble “Bear Grylls” but Thomas Cook goes everywhere you went, you just went on a really good holiday – stop pretending you’re Christopher fucking Columbus because you’re not.
Anyway let me start again.
When I am travelling I tend to avoid the hotel restaurant, unless, and I know this is sad, I am dining alone. I realise that’s what room service is meant to be for but I don’t do the whole room service thing, I don’t want the smell of food in the place I am going to sleep. There’s really only one thing I want to eat in bed and then wake up next to – and she doesn’t come on business trips with me.
So table for one please……..
The hotel restaurant is a vast uninspiring hangar of culinary despair, it’s the sort of lonely place with no intimacy, always busy but still only ever half full. Or more precisely you arrive thinking it’s half full and leave thinking it’s half empty – it’s that depressing. In “business hotels” breakfast is the biggest and most popular meal of the day – it’s also the worst. Parked in the centre of the dining area is always one of those massive units with the domed silver lids. BEHOLD BREAKFAST ISLAND!! Except I don’t eat anything that lurks under those lids – oh no. You can pull back the cover and be faced with what was once bacon but now looks like Pig-Auschwitz, or some amorphous mass of yellow gunge which the sign promises are “eggs” but should read “cavity wall insulation”. Or “sausages” floating in their fatty yellow-piss-stew like a bowlful of breakfast turds. I once swapped the sign that sits in front of the sausages with my own one which simply read “poo” – nobody batted an eyelid, so much for the art of protest.
And you can’t even make decent toast because they don’t have conventional toasters, they insist on using that industrial wire-frame conveyor belt into a hidden furnace which ignores the bread completely on it’s first passing and then cremates it on it’s second and, while you are waiting there at the machine like a toast wanker, other people come up and you notice how they squeeze and fondle the bread before selecting a couple of slices of the type you yourself have just put in and you then have to worry about which ones are yours and which ones belong to the “bread molester” who has probably been picking his itchy little bumhole all morning. And you can’t quite bring yourself to eat the cereal because it’s been uncovered for so long you can’t tell what’s “frosting” and what’s dust. And are those really raisins in the muesli? Probably not – so best to avoid unless you want your breath to smell of mouse shit for the day. And no Englishman has ever eaten luncheon meat for breakfast, so the vast array of pork fanned out in the corner is pretty but verboten. So it just lies there, very still, desperately trying to remain incognito, as if at any moment some food monitor will notice it and shout “why is their spam here? Who has ever had spam for breakfast? No really who has EVER had spam for breakfast?”.
So you get a glass of orange juice and a diamond-hard cube of frozen butter and trudge back to your distant table. Breakfast breakfast everywhere and not a thing to eat. Once seated you know that the butter will take just a bit more time than you have to properly melt so you use it to angrily mash the (possibly poo fingered) toast into an unrecognisable lump, dip it into your tiny hateful pot of jam and chew moodily. The alternative is death-by-omelette, which I cannot be convinced is an acceptable breakfast. A half-moon of coronary heart disease with cheese. The yellow peril of gluttony, lovingly prepared by people who would gladly see you die of cholesterol the minute you have checked out so they can go through your pockets and steal back the shampoo before chopping you up for bacon. I don’t think I could ever face a hotel omelette for breakfast – they look like the warning pictures you get on cigarette packets. They are somehow more yellow than yellow paint. They glow, and until they invent fluorescent Special K, I don’t want my breakfast to glow.
But wait a minute, they are bringing out pastries, could they be fresh? FRESH! The word detonates in your brain and belly, it tickles your salivary glands with the promise of ambrosial satisfaction, okay maybe not, but they’re not dusty. So you sprint the quarter mile back to Breakfast Island and just manage to snaffle one before poo-fingers starts his pastry groping.
Ah a croissant – not filled with chocolate or a dead apricot, not burnt and not cold. Just a croissant. It’s heaven – albeit heaven shaped like dog shit. But that’s how they are meant to look, so y’know – it’s okay. I don’t attempt to cut it in half (given that my knife is so blunt I don’t know if I’m even holding it the right way up), I just tear it, I open it like a favourite book and watch the fragrant steam escape with a happy sigh.
“Would you like coffee sir?”
And suddenly it doesn’t matter that the rest of it is so shit, it ceases to bother me that this ruinously expensive hotel makes me pay for tonnes of wasted food as part of the cost of staying there. It’s no longer an issue that Pig, the most delicious of all the food animals, in all it’s various tasty forms, has been so comprehensively ruined that even I, Mr Bacon, cannot bring myself to eat any of it. I am happy.
I’m happy because I now have a coffee and a croissant and soon I’ll be getting on a plane and coming home to flicked porridge and toast flecked cheeks and cups of tea I never get to drink (and find cold “on the side” an hour later when I get a moment to myself), to spilled milk and to bibs and major after-breakfast clear ups and smiles and laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. Because, as we all know, the perfect breakfast is about who you are eating with and what they mean to you. And bacon, really nice bacon.