January is rough. You're coming off the momentum of the holidays and the promise of a blank slate. You’re huffing that heady New Year smell that'll keep you fueled through roughly 8 a.m. on January 3. Then it's back to the glum reality of leaden skies, soul-deadening commutes, and mornings where the distance between your bed and the front door seems as far as the tip of Kilimanjaro. But you must press on, and your reward is breakfast.
This isn't some Bandersnatch exercise where your entire fate rests on the cereal you select and you end up murdering several people if you choose incorrectly (whoopsie—spoiler [but also maybe not]). It's just fueling yourself for the day ahead, but it can also be kind of nice and set a delightful tone for whatever happens after. Not much morning effort is required if you can convince current-you to prep ahead a little bit to make future-you's tomorrow a bit brighter.
Set the table
You may stumble into the kitchen and groggily wonder if elves or a very thoughtful burglar have broken and entered in the night, but really, it was just you setting out a placemat, dishes, drinking vessel, utensils, a napkin (maybe even a fancy cloth one), and any other breakfast accoutrement the night before where you usually hunker down to eat. If it helps to have a designated breakfast bowl or plate so you don't have to think about it, have at it, and if you really wish to set a fancy bar under which to limbo for the rest of the day, make it inexpensive vintage china from Etsy or a yard sale. A napkin ring may be flying too close to the sun, but risk it at least once. Sometimes, you must be your own swanky burglar elf.
You may have gone to bed with Champagne wishes and caviar dreams, but you woke up as, well, you. Quotidian caviar and lox are not in the budget for most of us mortals, but you can scratch that fishy itch with a little bit of taramasalata. A Greek spread traditionally made with dried, salted fish roe, olive oil, and lemons, taramasalata is generally deployed as part of a meze platter, but it's also a sleeper hit at breakfast. It brings a briny pop to potatoes and eggs and is a shockingly delightful addition to toast, bagels, and English muffins if you'd care to skew to the savory side. Homemade is ideal, but seriously, the jarred version is fiiiiine and easy enough to have stashed in the fridge. If you can net a chunk or jar of bottarga—salted, cured fish roe—grate it over those same things. A little pinch comes off like the gustatory equivalent of being smacked in the face by a wave from the Mediterranean Sea.
Become a supreme being
One of the small pleasures of a restaurant or hotel buffet breakfast is not having to pick the membrane from 'twixt your molars afterward. That's because some beleaguered prep cook got there before the crack of dawn to supreme a buttload of citrus. But but but—if you're only separating the peel and pith from one or two oranges or a grapefruit (which are in peak season right now), it doesn't actually take that long. Set aside a few minutes the night before and maybe meditate or hum or something while you tend to your fruit, stash it in a plastic container overnight, and you will have the swankiest treat awaiting you in the morning, no floss required. (Though you should really floss every morning. But you know what I mean.)
Upgrade your butter
I've made it clear how I feel about great butter, but I'll save you a click and tell that you the few extra bucks for the slightly fancier stuff has some of the greatest ROI for pleasure—especially if you don't mind leaving it out at room temperature overnight. This isn't your baking butter or your frying butter or your oatmeal butter; it's your designated spreadin' butter for toast and pastries, and it's even better if you have a little pinch bowl of flaky salt to sprinkle on top of it. Yes, even on the pastries. Life is all about contrast.
Choc it up
You scraped your sleepy carcass out of bed and made it to the kitchen. For that, you win hagelslag. Residents of the Netherlands often start the day with an open-faced sandwich spread with butter that's thickly coated in sprinkles. Those might be vanilla or fruit-flavored (anise is saved to celebrate the birth of a baby), but most likely they're made of good-quality chocolate, and they're a perfectly respectable breakfast for a grown-up human being, Dutch-culturally speaking. Vlokken—curved chocolate flakes—are a popular option as well, and both are pretty easy to find online, or at stores like World Market. If that seems daunting, here's an easy fix: take a vegetable peeler and shave some curls of a dark chocolate bar onto your buttered bread or into your hot cereal. There's no good reason dessert has to wait for the end of the day. At least not this month.