JH is a city of a few hundred-thousand people, very small for Chinese standards. And it's in southwest China, very close to some other SE Asian countries. That said, western expansionist regimes like McDonald's, Burger King and KFC haven't made it here--yet.
This meant that instead of munching on Egg McMuffins in the morning, we'd be doing breakfast Chinese style. Americans like grains in the morning, and we usually lean toward the sweet side of the taste spectrum. Hot breakfast is fine as long as it's a country-cooked plate brimming with scrambled eggs, grits and bacon. A gooey cinnamon roll will also do the trick. But if a Cracker Barrel waitress serves up a bowl of spicy noodles and greasy greens when I ordered the Old Timer's breakfast, she'd better be prepared for a riot.
The first morning at the Lu Qiao (Green Bridge), we gathered at the round tables in the hotel restaurant at about 8:30 a.m., and I was promptly reminded why I brought a box of granola bars. The feast, served in large metal pans steam-heated with boiling water, consisted of rice gruel (China's answer to sweet oatmeal), noodles tinged with vinegar and a variety of salty and spicy toppings. There was also a type of bread that looked doughy on the outside but inside had the texture of a stale biscuit.
It quickly became evident that the Green Bridge was not the ritzy Sino-Swiss. There would be no raspberry-topped waffles, sweet pastries or syrup-drenched pancakes. This is authentic Chinese breakfast served in a China far from Beijing, the one that doesn't care about making westerners happy. Realizing this fact got me wondering: Did we bring enough Pop-Tarts?