The next installment in our Borrower menu is actually three foods from the book combined into one! At afternoon tea, the Clocks serve tiny slivers of toasted chestnut in place of regular toast, and the narrator says they ate birds’ eggs and minnows while living at the badger’s set. These all sound like great breakfast components to me, so I combined them all together into a meal fit for a peckish Human Bean or a whole family of Borrowers. My chestnut toasts are just like the ones in the book—whole chestnuts sliced thin and toasted until golden brown. Since minnows are a little hard to find, I used sardines, and quail’s eggs are just the right size for a Borrower!
A Borrower’s Breakfast
“…badger sets are almost like villages—full of passages and chambers and storehouses. They could gather hazelnuts and beechnuts and chestnuts; they could gather corn…they had honey. They could make elderflower tea and lime tea. They had hips and haws and blackberries and sloes and wild strawberries. The boys could fish in the stream and a minnow to them would be as big as a mackerel is to you. They had birds’ eggs—any amount of them…”
— The Borrowers
- 1 dozen quail eggs (Most Asian grocery stores like H-Mart carry quail eggs, and some branches of Whole Foods do as well. You can order them online in a pinch, though it’s more expensive.)
- 12 chestnuts, shelled and roasted (I found mine at H-Mart for $1, but you can also buy big bags online.)
- 1 tin of sardines packed in water (These keep their silvery sheen a little better than the oil-packed sardines, making them look more like minnows.)
Serves approximately 4 Human Beans or 16 Borrowers
- Preheat your oven to 325°. Gently rinse your chestnuts in cold water and pat them dry with a paper towel. With a small, sharp knife, slice the chestnuts into thin “toasts.”
- Space the chestnuts evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 4-7 minutes, or until the edges of the nuts have just begun to darken and the “meat” in the center takes on a light brown hue. When finished, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool slightly on the pan. Some of the smaller chestnuts cook faster, so check the tray every 2 minutes, removing any smaller toasts that are already finished.
- While the toasts cool, fry up your quail eggs in a frying pan. If you have a hard time cracking the tiny eggs without damaging the yolk, try cutting off the tip of the shell with a knife or kitchen scissors (do it over the sink, in case a little bit of the white leaks).
- Plate the chestnut toast and eggs. Serve along with the sardines to fortify you for a long day’s borrowing! 🙂
Hungry for more breakfast? Check out our Hercule Poirot breakfast!