In a world where most people face down dry toast and cold cereal in the morning, Martha Murphy has a far better vision:
"My favorite thing is to use heavy white linen," she says. "I use antique Irish silverware and my mother's blue and white china. I always have fresh flowers, and it really looks the way I set the table if I'm having friends over for dinner, except it's morning, there's sunlight streaming in, there's a little classical music on the radio. And then out come the fresh hot muffins and the fruit, your choice of eggs or waffles, homemade sausage, it just goes on and on."
This is breakfast almost every morning at Mrs. Murphy's house. And if you're wishing right now that you could move in, you wouldn't be alone. Martha Murphy and her husband Kevin run an award-winning bed and breakfast in Rhode Island.
And while most people think of antique four-posters and wood-burning fireplaces as the main attractions of staying at a bed and breakfast, Mrs. Murphy, the author of "The Bed and Breakfast Cookbook" (Stemmer House, hardcover, $35), thinks breakfast is a big part of the appeal.
"Bed and breakfasts are getting so popular because they really have a lot of nice things to offer: you're staying in a private home and your room is usually beautifully appointed. You feel safe and you get to meet other travelers over breakfast. So there are a lot of pluses," she says.
"But I think one of the biggest pluses is that you get this fabulous food in the morning. It's home-cooked, it's delicious. And it's something that you wouldn't bother to do for yourself at home because you wouldn't have the time or the inclination or both."
Mrs. Murphy wrote her book -- which was designed and just published late last fall by Barbara Holdridge of Stemmer House Publishers in Owings Mills -- after she couldn't find a book like it in the bookstores. She had gone looking for a book to help her expand her repertoire of breakfast recipes.
"I wanted breakfast recipes that were somewhat unusual," she says. "And I thought, well, the best source was to go to the other hosts and hostesses of American b&b's because they're getting such a good reputation for their breakfasts."
She called the other bed and breakfast places in her town of Narragansett. "I got a mixed reaction. Some people were willing to share recipes and other people weren't. And it kind of impressed upon me just how valuable good breakfast menus and good recipes were to some of these b&b people. It was really part of their reputation and almost a trade secret. I thought, well, there really is a good idea here, to put together a collection of recipes, menus and tips from some of these hosts and hostesses."
She wrote to owners of bed and breakfasts all over the country, not quite knowing what to expect. "When I got this idea, I thought, 'This is really worth pursuing,' but at times I was thinking in the back of my mind, 'This is just not going to fly.' There's going to be three different pancake recipes and six different egg recipes, and that doesn't make a cookbook."
But she was amazed. She received all different kinds of recipes. In addition, there were long letters with brochures, photographs and descriptions of the homes, plus stories about local history and local attractions. "It was like taking a tour of America," she says.
She tested the recipes and culled them down to 315 of the best.
Although the recipes are used for breakfast and brunch, Mrs. Murphy says that many of them would be just as good for lunch or dinner. "If we're having a little dinner party, I often use one of the fruit recipes as a dessert. Plus there are quiches, crepes and casseroles that are just wonderful at dinner as well as being really beautiful brunch dishes. There's a whole chapter on vegetables and one on seafood dishes."
There is also a chapter on afternoon tea, since many bed and breakfasts are beginning to offer that.
Mrs. Murphy was born in Maryland and spent the first three weeks of her life in Annapolis, where her father, a naval officer, was stationed. But then the family moved to California and then on to someplace else about every two years after that. Even during school vacations, Mrs. Murphy adds, her parents would pack up the children and travel.
"By that experience we're all bitten with the travel bug, and all of us have stayed active travelers since then. But I think it helps with being a hostess to know what it's like to be a traveler."
She's believes her morning meals have inspired many of her guests to pay more attention to breakfast at home and to consider re-creating the experience by having guests over for brunch.
"So many of my guests have said to me at the end of their stay -- either the husband or the wife will say, 'We never have breakfast together, even on weekends when we both have the time. And this was really a wonderful way to start the day.' "