It should come as no surprise that just one day in Anthony Bourdain’s food diary from a recent trip to Los Angeles, published this morning on Grub Street, details a prodigious level of caloric intake—beef tongue tacos, “sinister orange soda,” margaritas, chocolate chip cookie, chocolate shake, double-double (“animal-style”) from In-N-Out. (Oof.) As for breakfast at the Chateau Marmont? A pot of coffee and a manly double order of bacon, Bourdain’s usual order. That’s the headline, of course, but what caught my eye was the non-culinary accompaniment: newspapers, the most sumptuous side dish there is.
“I want to have time to linger over coffee and the newspapers on my terrace,” Bourdain writes, adding: “I sit there, looking out over the sprawl as it gets light.” Bourdain deserves praise for making that most simple of breakfast pastimes—reading a newspaper—seem lovely and cool and casual and relevant.
Not to get too Miniver Cheevy on you, but it’s a shame more people don’t enjoy newspapers over breakfast. Bourdain’s newspaper consumption must be generational, since he is a man of the nearly bygone days of print. It saddens me that my peers in their 20s and 30s seem to spend spend more time twitchily scouring Facebook trends and Instagram posts immediately after waking (I am guilty of this) than easing into the New York Times’ opinion pages over a cup of coffee and a slice of buttered toast. (That’s an Instagram-worthy photo for you.)
This is a ritual, and I haven’t figured out exactly what we’ve lost from its absence. A sense of serendipity, perhaps, of happening upon an interesting column in the business pages, for instance, simply because you randomly flipped to it. And also, maybe, a sense of control over the day. Rather than being flooded with information, you can take your time with the news, own it.
Newspapers at breakfast also encourage conversation and a sense of community, if you aren’t eating alone. Twitter and other social media platforms, which are amorphous, constantly updated, trap you in your phone. Newspapers can be passed from one table-mate to another, and, despite the ink stains they leave on your fingers, they’re probably more sanitary than smartphones.
If anything, newspapers are simply a more practical technology at breakfast time, despite their cumbersome nature. Sure, there’s some annoyingly acrobatic folding involved. But food and drink stains on a broadsheet are charming. Bacon grease on your iPhone screen? Not so much.