Around the world, at the breakfast table

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Like most of us, I travel more in my mind than in person. My "trips" usually begin at breakfast with jam as my magic carpet. Over the years when my wife and I have really traveled - that is, gotten on a plane or in the car - we have brought back a jar of jam or jelly from places we thought were special. Now, favorite areas are immediately associated with certain spreads.

On a morning when being in an Austrian village seems more inviting than hanging around home on Long Island, I open the fridge for a jar of Waldbrombeer Konfituere Extra made in Stans, Switzerland.

A whiff of this blackberry jam, and I'm off - back in the breakfast room at Das Forsthaus in Pettneu, Austria. Out the window, there is a ridge of fresh snow on the balcony railing. On the table in front of me are rolls, cheese, cold cuts, jam, and honey. Frau Tschiderer, the owner, has asked if I slept well and relayed the day's weather report. In half an hour, I will be adjusting my ski boots before taking the chairlift up for the first run of the day. I "go" there a lot in mid-November when it seems as if the ski season will never come.

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In late March, spring has a way of piddling, and I reach for the red-pepper jelly bought on a warm day in Hilton Head, S.C. Every bite has a bite. At first it's your usual soft and sweet jam, then comes the pepper jolt. The label more or less brags that there is no need to refrigerate this product of the South (Statesboro, Ga.) like an ordinary sissy spread.

Red-pepper jelly catapults me onto the bridge leading to Hilton Head. My wife, Irene, and I are in a rented car, our heads set on windshield wiper mode, moving right and then left to see the marshes, the oyster beds, the boats, and the salmon-colored tile roofs.

Come late July and a string of those hazy, dog days, and it's time for Maine. The ticket? A jar of raspberry-rhubarb jam "made expressly" for a store in Cape Porpoise, down the road from Kennebunkport. After breakfast at the inn where we normally stay - if there were a contest for the strangest music played at the start of the day, this place would win it - we will be in the car headed to L.L. Bean or Portland for the day. Whichever it is, we are almost certain to make a detour to see a lighthouse or two. Wherever lunch is, at least one of us will have lobster something-or-other. When we get back to the inn late that afternoon, what had been a bed of mud in the morning will be the brisk-flowing Kennebunk River.

Irene takes her own "trips." Some days she may feel like Hilton Head and red-pepper jelly, while I want a taste of Maine and raspberry-rhubarb jam. Or one of us may feel like staying home while the other goes somewhere. There's no doubt, however, where we're both headed if the apple butter ends up on the table. This wonderful substance - the label says it's "baked" - is from a restaurant in Nashville, Ind., where apple butter is piled on fried yeast rolls. "Delicious" is too weak a word to describe this splendid combination.

Nashville is in the lovely hills of southern Indiana, not far from Bloomington, where Irene and I met in college. An apple-butter "trip" makes for a long breakfast. There's much to savor and remember.

Fortunately, I suppose, neither Irene nor I know how to fry yeast rolls. If we did, we might never get up from the breakfast table.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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