"Imagine an angel suddenly sweeping down out of a better land and setting before him a mighty porter-house steak an inch-and-a-half thick, hot and spluttering from the griddle; dusted with fragrant pepper; enriched with little melting bits of butter of the most unimpeachable freshness and genuineness; the precious juices of the meat atrickling out and joining the gravy; archipelagoed with mushrooms; a township or two of tender yellowish fat gracing an outlying district of this ample country of beefsteak ... and imagine that the angel also adds a great cup of coffee, with the cream a-froth on top, some real butter, firm and yellow and fresh, some smoking hot biscuits, a plate of hot buckwheat cakes, with transparent syrup -- could words describe the gratitude of this exile?"

Thus wrote Mark Twain of what he had missed during his travels abroad: an ordinary American breakfast as it was enjoyed in the days before people became obsessed with calories and cholesterol. Breakfast was once a meal with legs on it, not the hopeless hop through a carton of yogurt that it's become.

Forget those weekend brunches where it's Bloody Marys, bagels and lox. Boring. If you're going to do it, do it in the old-fashioned way, inviting people to stop by Sunday morning for a Mark Twain meal, or, more elegantly, to share the oyster breakfast which Brillat-Savarin wrote of with such rapture:

" ... the table ready, spread with white linen, three places laid, and at each of them two dozen oysters and a gleaming golden lemon.

"At both ends of the table rose up bottles of Sauterne, carefully wiped clean except for the corks, which indicated in no uncertain way that it was a long time that the wine had rested there ...

"After the oysters, which were found to be deliciously fresh, grilled skewered kidneys were served, a deep pastry shell of truffled foie gras, and finally the fondue ...

"After the fondue came seasonable fresh fruits and sweetmeats, a cup of real Mocha ... and finally two kinds of liqueurs, one sharp for refreshing the palate and the other oily for soothing it."

More difficult than providing a boring basket of croissants, I will grant you, but not unmanageable for the creative host/ess. And perhaps the foie gras will have to be eliminated in the wake of the falling stock market.

Or what about inviting people for the kind of breakfast that made this country great? This is what a Londoner traveling in Virginia in 1746 reported as standard fare: "Their Breakfast Tables have generally the cold Remains of the former Day, hash'd or fricasseed; Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, Venison-pasty, Punch, and Beer, or Cyder ... " One is not likely to have left-over venison, but a pork pie or fricasseed ham or turkey would be just as filling. And the punch called a posset would be quite passable for breakfast, containing as it does: " ... a Quart of Cream and mix with it a Pint of Ale, then beat the Yolks of ten Eggs, and the Whites of four; when they are well beaten, put them to your Cream and Ale; sweeten it to your Taste, and slice some Nutmeg in it; set it over the Fire, and keep it stirring all the While, and when 'tis thick, and before it boils, take it off, and pour it into the Bason {bowl} you serve it in to the Table." A bit of a bite, but certainly no more than the ubiquitous Bloody Mary or Mimosa.

Or if eggs it must be, serve your guests one of the more creative recipes from Alexandre Dumas' Dictionary of Cuisine: For Eggs Pe`re Douillet, "Break 7 eggs into a bowl, mix with one tablespoonful of veal gravy, one tablespoonful of reduced cullis {coulis used to mean meat juices, and Dumas leaves the kind to the discretion of the cook}, one tablespoonful of consomme', salt, and pepper. Pass through a sieve 15 minutes before you are ready to serve. Heat your serving platter moderately, pour your eggs on it, cook under the broiler at a sufficient distance. Do not overcook; serve still trembling."

When a novelist cooks, the eggs tremble, but Dumas' reputation with a pen is equaled by his reputation at the stove. "To some people an egg is an egg. This is an error," writes the author as he insists on fresh ingredients for the six pages of recipes that follow: Most of his egg dishes are simple and one in particular, which is easily prepared for a large group of people, is Eggs a` la Pauvre Femme. "Break 12 eggs into melted butter in a shallow pan. Dice crustless bread and fry in butter to a light golden color. Drain. Sprinkle over the eggs. Bake. Before serving, pour over them a reduced espagnole sauce. Serve with tender ham or kidneys."

If you fear that all this food will overwhelm people used to life lived without calories, make up a banner bearing the words of Chaucer and hang it over the groaning board: "Agayns glotonye the remedie is abstinence."