As I write, it is nighttime. I am feeling sleepy and accomplished. I’ve gotten a lot done at work this week, squeezed in visits to both the gym and the pool, and still managed to avoid all Game of Thrones spoilers (I should point out that this includes avoiding watching all episodes of the program, as it seems devoted almost exclusively to dragons and child murder, and I already watch Mad About You for that). I am also satiated from an easy chicken and veg stir fry and, though I had a big helping, I know I’ll be hungry again in eight hours or so and I’m kind of pissed off about that.
Dream: Find something to eat for breakfast.
Goal: Not achievable. I’ve been eating breakfast for 32 years now, and I’ve never felt ready to “take on the day” based solely on what I choke down upon waking. As you will soon discover, I’ve tried everything for breakfast, and it’s not a quality issue when it comes to the food or its preparation, it’s just that the concept of breakfast seems flawed from the get go.
Plan: Systematically take down breakfast food choices until I’m left, tired and hungry, with the best option.
1) Cereal. This was the breakfast staple of my childhood and, I suspect, everyone else’s. This remains my go-to morning sustenance, but it’s got a lot of problems. First of all, it’s either incredibly bland or incredibly sweet. Sugary cereals were banned from my childhood home and I resolved that I would stock my adult shelves with Froot Loops and Lucky Charms and Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Discs when the time came. I did, and it was disgusting. No morning is successfully greeted with a bowl of wet candy. But the plain cereals are just as disappointing. A bowl of Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, or Grape Nuts (what the fuck are those, by the way) is like eating flavourless pellets of chipped paint. And it’s cold! And it gets soggy! There’s nothing less inviting. Except maybe:
2) Oatmeal. The hot, moist cousin of cereal, oatmeal is what happens when someone chews up unflavoured popcorn and spits it back into your mouth. Yes, you can add brown sugar or honey, but that seems like an excuse to load up on sugar and head for a spectacular crash mid-morning. Some people add almonds, other nuts, or grains to their oatmeal, but that’s almost always an unpleasant textural shift. How do I know I didn’t just swallow some sand or gravel? I don’t.
3) Fruit and yogurt. I’ve been a fan of this combo for a while, but it too can fall into the trap of being cloyingly sweet. The only way to last a morning on a breakfast of fruit and yogurt is to have a lot of it, and nobody’s guts take kindly to too much yogurt. Doesn’t lactose have the opposite effect on an adult than it does on a kid? Like milk/yogurt/cheese for kids: good. Milk/yogurt/cheese for adults: bad? My stomach feels off when I’ve had too much dairy, and yet when I replace my fruit and yogurt with fruit and tuna, it’s never as good.
4) Pancakes. Pancakes are awesome, but they are dessert for breakfast. I love a pancake, but I also love the nap that follows a pancake. My father doesn’t cook much, but he will often make breakfast on Sundays when my brother and I are visiting, and there will be pancakes. They are awesome, but I have to go straight back to bed. Not a viable daily option.
5) Eggs. I love eggs. They solve the problem of an oversweet breakfast by being a savory front-runner. The variety of egg preparations means you’re not repeating the same meal every day. But then you’re one of those egg guys. If I have an egg for breakfast too many days in a row, I’m convinced I reek of egg. And it’s hard to have an egg without going overboard on sodium, even if it’s just a salted and peppered egg on buttered toast—that’s your salt for a year and a half. This is to say nothing of eggs with bacon or sausage, which brings me to…
5) Brunch. Brunch wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for Brunch People. Ohhh, I loathe you, Brunch People. Every weekend, you line up out the door with your unwashed hair and your “You know, people aren’t meant to wear deodorant” smell, and you ruin everything for everyone. It’s because of you, Brunch People, that I can’t get a glass of water in nearly any restaurant that is not served in a mason jar. Plus, Brunch People operate under a tremendous double-standard. Tell a Brunch Person that you had a hamburger or pizza for dinner and they will scoff at your unhealthy lifestyle. “Was it at least goat cheese pizza?” they will ask, doubtfully. “Was the burger made of grains?” But THEN, these same people will devour massive plates of eggs benedict with piles of meat, egg, and hollandaise (which is essentially a butter sauce with the consistency of you-know-what). They will deride my unhealthy food choices, then order eggs benny with a double helping of butter cum sauce and arrange their strips of bacon in a crisscross pattern so they can Instagram their #brunch.
I guess what I’m really looking for is a kind of breakfast soylent. A nutrient rich stew or bar that is texturally appealing, neither too sweet or salty, and packed with enough nutrients and calories to get me to lunch. As passionate as I am about delicious food, I’d forego the first meal of the day all together if I could. I think about becoming one of those busy businessmen who skips breakfast entirely. But then, because I’m so much fun at a party, I think about the sad breakfasts prepared at Meals on Wheels, or in hospitals, or for poor kids in schools. The cold, limp toast, the spotted banana, the overcooked egg substitute. Then I pour my cereal, or toast my bagel, or scramble my eggs, and shut the fuck up.