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Two eggs over lightly served with chopsticks

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After almost three weeks of eating with chopsticks at every meal, we food editors touring China were so experienced we could even use them to pick up our peanuts at breakfast.

Peanuts are often part of breakfast in China, along with congee -- rice gruel or porridge, like oatmeal and our other hot cereals; salted fish; sponge cake; and other foods that might seem a bit unusual, especially as the first meal of the day.

But I liked the Chinese breakfast, and so did about a third of the people i was traveling with. The others had what is called American or Western breakfast.

Many people who had been to China told me not to depend on the Chinese breakfast. Some even said to take along extra food such as granola. But I liked the breakfasts, especially those served in little breakfast shops in the market areas and in some of the small streets and lanes.

Hotels for tourists serve both Chinese and American breakfasts. You can tell the minute you enter the dining room by checking out the table setting to see if there are chopsticks or silver. You must let the hotel know in advance if you want Chinese breakfast, however.

A breakfast in China can include any but not necessarily all of the following , and usually only a small amount of each: There is almost always a bowl of hot congee or noodles, sometimes several small dishes of savories such as smoked or salted fish, pickled radish, spiced beef, pickled onions, shrimps, walnuts, and a few peanuts.

The plain sponge cake is typical. And the Chinese have interesting doughnuts and crullers, often cooked and sold on the streets in early morning.

Actually this kind of menu has similarities to our own breakfasts.

The salty foods stimulate the appetite, much as our sharp citrus orange and grapefruit juices in the morning. And the various kinds of Chinese crullers and buns are also like our doughnuts and crullers, although not so sweet.

One morning at breakfast, Warren Henneger of Bloomington, Ind., and agronomist and guide for our group, suggested I try the ham sandwiches at the American breakfast table. I did, and although the bread tasted like good, firm, homemade bread, the ham was not all like the American ham we use for sandwiches.


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