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I’ve done a fair bit of hotel staying lately. I’m not a world traveler, but I’ve stayed in enough hotels to become simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by the concept of the “continental” breakfast.

What exactly is “continental” about the typical “free” breakfast fare hotels offer? It’s not really free, of course. It ends up in the cost of the room. But it feels free. Like so many deals, to Americans the veneer of getting something for nothing even while  consequently paying more for something else is good enough,

I don’t know what the origin of the continental breakfast is. I could google it, but with the pace of modern society, even that simple, quick solution somehow feels lazy and bourgeois (cool word alert). Plus, I’m writing this paragraph at a location where there’s no Wi-FI, so I can’t look it up. It seems unlikely I will bother looking it up later. If, when you read this, this paragraph isn’t actually here, then you’ll know I did look it up after all. Of course, if I changed it, then you won’t know the difference…It’s like on Doctor Who (ding – obligatory reference) when stuff happens to people and then they change history and can’t actually remember what happened before.

Anyway, the typical American hotel continental breakfast appears to consist of powdered eggs, Frosted Flakes, and waffles you have to cook yourself in an incredibly simple waffle iron that confuses most people. Sometimes, motels will mix it up a little with a bowl of browning fruit or breakfast burritos and some powdered donuts, but this is the basic fare.

What’s “continental” about this? Where are the croissants? The espresso? Truffles maybe. And doilies. You can’t eat doilies (though they’re probably indistinguishable in taste from the waffles), but my hunch is continental breakfasts should be steeped in doilies. And fresh-cut flowers. Everyone involved should have some sort of European accent. Don’t really care which one. That’s “continental” in my mind.

Instead, what we’re really getting in these hotel continental breakfasts is what we’d make in our own homes only with a lot of mostly unwashed strangers wandering through our kitchen getting their germs on our muffins.

But it’s FREE*.

(*not really free. See above.)

And that, I guess, is what it’s all about. Get it for free, whatever the sacrifice. It’s the American way.

Hey, dude, pass the stale blueberry muffins. And don’t even think of grabbing that luggage cart in the lobby first. That sucker’s mine.


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  1. Continental Breakfast is a very strange things. At most hotels (even in Europe!) there is not much European about it. The term does just mean “not the full breakfast buffet” in my opinion. The better name would be “light breakfast” (not in the sense of calories though)

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