Plus what to feed the people who are sleeping on your air mattress

By Jennifer Steinhauer
Updated February 13, 2018
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EC: Prayers, Protests, and Pancakes for a Presidential Inauguration
Credit: Photo by Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Praying over breakfast happens a lot in our nation’s capitol, especially on and around Inauguration Day. While the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast is not an official inaugural event, it has been a tradition on this day since 1993, when ministers and other faith leaders decided to get together at a hotel for prayers for the new president—and maybe have some coffee and eggs. In the case of presidential inaugurations, they date back to the church service that was held after George Washington's first inaugural in 1789. Prayer breakfasts are one of the last nonpartisan events in a deeply partisan environment.

This year’s Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast, which will be held in the Presidential Ballroom at the Trump International Hotel because of course it will be, will feature a sort of Las Vegas-style buffet. Those gathered to pray for the presidency of Donald J. Trump should expect a spread of muffins, croissants, fruit salad, scrambled eggs, bacon, and hash browns, as well as the preferred coffee of the hotel, Trump Signature Segafredo Zanetti, which will be available both regular and decaffeinated. Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, are invited to the affair, but will likely not attend. According to the Trump transition team, they will go to some other breakfasts involving prayer over the weekend.

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This all should not be confused with the National Prayer Breakfast, which is held the first Thursday in February every year at a Hilton Hotel property, and is often attended by the President as well as other dignitaries.The concept has caught on in other cities as well, but probably only Washington gets the president as a guest.

The brainchild of Abraham Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant and Methodist minister, the National Prayer Breakfast was conceived as a venue for lawmakers to find spiritual guidance together, with nourishment for souls and stomachs. It got its first presidential visit from Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953, and every sitting president has attended since. The menu has traditionally offered dishes more regional in feel—think grits and sausage. Catholics have been doing their own breakfast here since 2004, with a hotel spread as well, to ponder other ecumenical matters.

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If you will be in Washington this weekend, there is a strong chance you, too, will be eating breakfast, perhaps at a hotel buffet, in the manner of a traditional capitol prayer spread, or instead at one of our city’s brunchy spots, like Kyirisan, The Passenger, or the Pop-Tarts-serving Ted’s Bulletin.

Those who are coming for the Women’s March are likely crashing on a couch, floor, or futon of a friend, or friend of friend. (Actually I have not seen a proper futon in several years now, but I raise the specter here because it is a very fine surface for eating a warm bowl of Cream of Wheat. My father festooned his with a slice of American cheese. This has nothing to do with futons, or protests, or prayers. So I will move along now.) For those of you playing host to out of town revelers, let us talk through some menu suggestions that serve a crowd.

First of all, no one really wants your “seasonal fruit,” except maybe a banana or two before they hit the Beltway back out of town. Yogurt is fine; can it maybe not be Greek?

Sleepovers, in my view, are best supplemented by ample stacks of pancakes. This is where your yogurt is best put to use, or buttermilk, which you may know can be made instantly with a cup of milk and tablespoon of vinegar if you don’t have any on hand. The New York Times recently posted a pancake primer that I actually studied with the attention that some of you are bringing to the emoluments clause, and I was particularly enamored with the explanation of sugar’s role in the grilling.

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Credit: Photo by David Hume Kennerly via Getty Images

French toast is a good option if you have fewer guests rooting around your home for an extra hand towel, but why not get cheeky about it? This Food52 recipe calls for black pepper and cilantro. Do it.

Large egg dishes are also perfect for a crowd. Might I suggest The Kitchn’s rather amazing sweet potato hash that can largely be made ahead of time? Or Extra Crispy’s guide to making eggs for a crap-ton of people? Or you could just get all ski trip on everyone and make Allrecipes’ basic scrambled eggs in the oven thing, embellishing with cheese, onions, and herbs as you see fit.

There is this whole breakfast sandwich situation that is much discussed. I think you can make your own, especially if you are a lucky person who at some point found yourself in a romantic relationship with someone who decided you deserved a panini maker. But if someone is offering to fly and buy (Good guest! Good guest!), I’m gonna plug the pastrami, egg, and cheese sandwich from Bullfrog Bagels, or the Portlander from Little Red Fox. The latter is a monster of fried egg with house-made apple butter and gorgonzola spread—both items that would require prayer of another sort. Or, just bag it and go to Jimmy T’s, the classic bad breakfast joint where lawmakers chow down. It’s near the end of the march route.

In closing, if you are the sort of person who owns a popover pan, pull it out. There is no occasion that is not made better by a popover, except the one in which I have to make them.

Jennifer Steinhauer is a writer of newspaper articles, cookbooks, and the occasional failed novel.