rolls

Have you ever fallen victim to the repetitive meal? When I was a kid I came home from school and told my mother that I enjoyed the baloney and mustard sandwich she made me for lunch. You know what that resulted in? A baloney and mustard sandwich every day for what was to be a very, very, long time.

I no longer care for baloney. Or tuna on rye. Somehow both of these meals have earned the distinction of “never again” in my gastronomic book. I simply ate them one time too many.

But certain foods, no matter how often consumed, never reach that status. A case in point? My daily Viennese breakfast.

When living in Vienna during the latter half of my sophomore year, our “meal plan” consisted of $5 a day and complimentary breakfast provided by our lodgers, the wonderful Pension Pertschy. Each morning, I would head down to the dining room and was served a pot of tea, and a basket of rolls with butter and jam. If you were in the mood for eggs or pastry, you had to pay more.

Many times over the course of my 3+ month stay at Pertschy’s, classmates of mine would opt to pay the extra schillings for eier mit speck (eggs & bacon), but I never did. Part of it was sheer frugality…why pay extra for eggs when you are being handed a free meal? For some reason, I’d grown fondly accustomed to my morning fare.

The rolls were fantastic – crusty, light and always warm. I’d slather them with butter and a touch of jam, and sip my tea while gazing at the other diners, and my sometimes rowdy, sometimes hung over, group of classmates. Then it was off to school at the Austro-American Institute, or if it was a weekend, perhaps the Stadtpark or shopping.

Day after day, this was my breakfast. And I never tired of it. Ever.

Maybe it’s the Jersey girl in me. I’ve lived in a few different states, but Jersey/New York is the only place I’ve been able to walk into a deli in the morning and grab a buttered roll. One gas station on Rt. 4 used to have buttered rolls wrapped in wax paper in a basket next to the cash register. If you got there too late, they were sold out.

From time to time I think back with nostalgic longing to those breakfasts at Pertschy’s, so far removed from the typical American college breakfast of sugary cereal or powdered eggs. It just felt so European.

Next? I’ll tell you how I managed to eat both lunch and dinner on five bucks a day.

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