“What the heck is that?” I asked when the Dutch host family set in front of me bright orange box of multi-colored sprinkles, a tub of butter, and two pieces of perfectly toasted bread.
I must admit, those few words were probably extremely disrespectful to the nice family that agreed to house me and three other girls from the traveling vocal ensemble. I’m unsure what made my mood bitter and sour, but at that moment delusion made me expect a nice American breakfast, even if I was in the heart of Holland.
My stomach churned. Where was my bacon? Where were my eggs? Why was I putting sprinkles on anything other than ice cream? Why is that bright orange box taunting me to pour those sprinkles on my buttered toast? A thousand thoughts were running through my mind as I tried to make sense of the situation. In Dutch, they call these sprinkles “hagelslag,” a word that looked innocently fun written in cursive on the cheery box. I made up my mind to pour an array of sugared pellets on top of my freshly buttered toast. Near the end of my five week European tour I was experiencing my fist bit of culture shock.
And the culprit of this culture shock? Sprinkles.
So, like any proper houseguest, I swallowed my skepticism and pride and bit into the sprinkled toast. The first thing I noticed was the texture. Toast is already crunchy, but the addition of the sprinkles gave it more texture than I ever thought possible. The tutti-frutti pellets of sugar blended with the saltiness of the soft butter and even found a complementary balance with the grain of the toast. As I sat loudly crunching on toast with sprinkles, a strange realization set in; believe it or not toast with sprinkles is extremely delicious!
This little breakfast experience carried over into other food adventures as I later travelled to various places around the globe. In other parts of the world, especially Asia, I discovered far more culturally shocking food items than sprinkles for breakfast. That singular moment of trying something unfamiliar opened a new series of doors; it introduced flavors and textures that I never would have experienced had I let my pride decide for my palate or stuck to traditional notions of what classifies a certain item as suitable for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was entering a world of culinary agnosticism. It was no longer taboo to have my favorite dessert topping for breakfast, nor to enjoy the Norwegian tradition of having pancakes for dinner and waffles for dessert.
Recently, I sat at my desk at work, scrolled through my news feed and wondered what new food trends were gaining popularity in America, and then I saw it. An author described new way of toasting called fairy toast. Can you guess what is on it? Sprinkles. Fairy toast is simply toast with sprinkles, the delicious sugar pellets that were the gateway to my philosophy that any sort of food fits anytime, any way, and anywhere.
So, next time you’re out and about and notice a food item that doesn’t fit the traditions you grew up with, give it a shot. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover food possibilities that aren’t constrained by the time of the day, the presentation or the familiar flavors.