"Food: Science, Art, Passion, Pleasure, Adventure & Exploration"

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Business of Breakfast

"Pancakes & Juice" Allyson N. Jason © 2010

I've never been much of a breakfast foods person, but I do love that there is a distinct category of foods deemed ideal for early morn eating.

The tradition of breakfast has been around for a long time all across the globe and each culture has their own brand of established "breakfast foods." Over time, I think each culture has come to see certain foods as customary for breakfast based on influences such as physical labor patterns, accessible native ingredients and crops, nutrition beliefs, and family customs. Breakfast is still considered the most important meal of the day, second to dinner, because it's a starter to a full day which usually involves a work schedule and some form of long-standing labor in most societies. In the past, fueling up during breakfast was far more crucial because a lot of work consisted of physical labor over modernity's trend of desk/office labor.

For North America, our breakfast culture is hugely inspired by English traditions. Yes, we have a mosaic of other cultural influences on breakfast eating, but by large, the influence seems to be English. The English would traditionally eat full meals (meaning involving several courses in one) during mornings (in some regions, meaning only weekend mornings) consisting of foods and drinks such as biscuits, porridge, tea, bacon, potatoes, grilled tomatoes, sausage, eggs, toast, black pudding and even baked beans. Occasionally, fish would be on the morning menu. This could possibly explain the tradition of fish and grits developing in southern U.S. states over time, although I am not entirely sure of the origins of eating grits with some type of fish (shrimp and grits is popular, too!).  Grits and fish together might also have mixed influences from African and Native American cultures, since grits (similar to English porridge) are Native American in origin.

"Eggs & Sausages" (part of "Full Breakfast" illustration) Allyson N. Jason © 2010

Breakfast, regardless of cultural variation and style, universally brings about tradition, community and...memories.

I might not care for the typical breakfast sausage, side of bacon, bowl of grits or fried egg saucer/plate-display, but the smell of breakfast undeniably reminds me of my childhood -- of being young, being around my family, and simplicity.

I remember those times when my mom would wake me up to get ready for school and she'd have a plate of grits, bacon. and fried eggs ready for breakfast with a large, tall, glass of pulpy orange juice. I would always arrive to school either smelling like a mix of peppered and salted fried eggs and fried cured meats or the sweet smell of faux-maple syrup (because most American syrups are really corn syrup concoctions with little to no actual maple syrup in it) and pancakes. On luckier days, I'd see a fresh plate of waffles and I'd douse them generously with butter, syrup and whipped cream. Sometimes, I'd show up to school with faint oatmeal breath and some overlooked drops of brightly colored fruit juice splattered on my school dress or shirt. The smell of breakfast was always tied to routine, starting the day,  morning, and family.

Other nostalgic mornings, usually weekends or weekdays I'd stay home from school sick, would involve waking up early to catch my favorite morning cartoons. Saturday morning cartoons were the best, in particular. I loved cartoons back then and I love them madly today, but watching them during my childhood brought about the most special and cherished moments. You just can't mimic those times --true innocence, the world seeming larger than ever, and hopes and dreams totally laden with charming, sweet, and quixotic naïveté.

The smell of breakfast foods brings all of that back for me. This is why I cherish continually cultivating the tradition of breakfast, although I find myself being quite picky over what I'll have, especially given my mood. I sometimes go "maverick" and have foods normally considered proper for lunch or dinner, such as salads, hot and savory soups, noodle dishes and stir fry meals. I occasionally get comments from others telling me how strange my choices of foods are for mornings. I mean who eats a spicy, three-cheese burrito for breakfast? Who considers sushi and sashimi in the morning? Who wants that leftover penne pasta with homemade pesto sauce from last night for breakfast? Who in their right mind eats a heavy slice of cheesecake drenched in caramel sauce for breakfast?

I raise my hand and casually answer "me" to all of those questions amid bewildered looks of distaste and odd gag-enriched reactions. In an effort to defend myself, while still holding pride in my choice to be so "unique and daring," I must say I don't eat those things often for breakfast, but yes I do jump off the breakfast foods train once in awhile to go and "explore the wild bustling city." Sometimes, I don't board any train at all and I just stay inside my lone, quaint cabin with a growling protesting stomach until evening sets. Yes, I know, I can be very bad and *gasp* skip breakfast.

I think skipping breakfast naturally comes with being such a night owl. I know breakfast is important to start the day and it is never my intention to not eat a good starter meal, but if you're nocturnal, nothing about your schedule (and the details involved in defining it) is normal to begin with.

With all of this breakfast talk, I am actually inspired to go and get a new waffle iron . My old one is long gone and even if I knew where it was, its condition would be too far gone for proper use. I hear that pizzelles are all the rage now, so someday I'll try my hand at preparing those. Pizzelles seem like a sophisticated way to have waffles for those romantic, European-inspired bed and breakfast goers who want something special. As with so many things, they are on my culinary to-do list, too.

What do you enjoy having for breakfast and what kind of associations does breakfast bring about for you?


  1. I'm like you. I tend to choose whatever it is I'm in the mood for regardless of the time of day. On the rare occasion I eat breakfast, I'm just as likely to choose a slice of cold pizza or a dish of beef stew leftover from the night before as I am a ham slice and a bowl of grits or a stack of pancakes. More likely, even. Leftovers are a bit easier when one is pressed for time.

    As far as what my favorites are of the foods typically considered breakfast foods, I'd have to say I'm always up for some home fries or grits with a side of ham, sausage, or bacon. Those things are a little heavy for every day, but I do enjoy them as special treats from time to time.

  2. My daughter's favorite breakfast is Soup! She likes it almost every morning or a baked Potato. She also has eaten leftover casserole. I myself like muffins in the morning but sometimes leftover Pizza.

  3. Hi Badbadkitty! :)

    I love soups as well. If they are hearty and fulfilling they can be great for starting the day. They aren't just good for lunches or dinners.

    I've been intending to experiment with a variety of fruit soups as desserts but also as breakfast items. I've got a few ideas jotted down in my notebook that I'll try to document in the near future once I get around to experimenting. :)