It seems as if about thirty years ago hotels and motels began to offer a ‘complementary continental breakfast’ with a nights stay. That was great, especially if you had a family. For a family of four or five a breakfast could easily cost about half again the price of a room. To the disappointment of many a ‘complementary breakfast’ normally consist of granola, a bagel, two-day-old donut, orange colored water, and black water.
The word ‘complementary’ means to complete something. What is being completed? A bad night in a motel made worse.
The granola is made up of the throwaway raisin bran from the county jail, oats purchased from the local feed and grain, and a touch of sweetened STP oil treatment to bind it. If you don’t eat that donut your first morning it’s scraped of the glaze and becomes the bagel the next morning. The orange juice is diluted Tang with spaghetti bits from the garbage disposal of the nearest Italian place as pulp. Coffee is from the bottom shelf at Odd Lots and probably ground by the transmission of a ’79 Omni five speed in a remote village in Panama (everybody knows the best beans come from plantations irrigated from canal water).
In ’03, my wife and I went to London and Budapest. Our travel brochure said that we would have a ‘complementary continental breakfast’ with our room. We planned to eat out. After all, what are the English known for, figgy pudding, crumpets, and chips and gravy. Other than goulash the Hungarians’ only contribution to the culinary world is… – Attila the Hun.
To our surprise, ‘continental breakfast’ has an entire different meaning on ‘the continent.’
At the hotel in London and Budapest, there was no less than thirty-two feet of table filled with ‘continental breakfast’ items. Everything was on the tables from cured meats, every type of potato imaginable, eggs anyway you want them, fruits, pastries creps, French Toast, various types of pancakes – the list could go on and on.
This past spring my wife and I stayed in a motel on the Oregon coast that featured a ‘continental breakfast.’ I was overcome by how grateful Americans really are. As I heard them sip Panamanian coffee and crunch on a toasted bagel they would say, “Not a bad little breakfast.”
When Europeans think ‘continental’ they see a blend and mixture of various cultures. Perhaps when American hotel and motel owners think of ‘continental’ they have in mind the continent of Antarctica.