Breakfast is one of my favorite meals. (The others are lunch, dinner, and snacks.) I get up pretty early, sometime between 4:30 and 6:00, and drink my coffee, free-writing if I’m on a roll, reading the newspaper if I’m in a slump. I wait a while for breakfast.
I like the variety of breakfast. It might be a chunk of cheese with grapes and a piece of bread. Peanut butter and jelly melting on hot toast. All the scraps and bits left on the chicken carcass I had planned to save for soup. Leftovers from the night before: broccoli and mashed potatoes, spaghetti and meatballs,stew. I like more conventional breakfasts too: I never get tired of Cheerios, Grapenuts, Miniwheats, cornflakes. In the winter I love oatmeal, which tastes so much better when you call it porridge. Winter is also the time for Orlando tangelos or marsh grapefruit from Henderson and Daughter at the farmers’ market.
Because I believe breakfast is important after the long night fast, I search for ways to be sure Amanda eats it. In third grade she wanted to eat breakfast at school. I knew it was sugary junk, but I didn't argue. My maternal battle cry is choose your battles.
Like many adolescents (yes, she’s not quite eleven, but decidedly adolescent) Amanda now resists breakfast, as she resists every other suggestion, request, or demand. To make the morning a little more pleasant, I’ve revived and revised the menu from Grandma’s Café, which used to be open in the afternoon after preschool.
I wake her at 6:30, and she chooses from the menu or suggests something else. I speak as little as possible in this encounter - she needs time to float up out of sleep. I go into the kitchen and fix her breakfast and my own, call back to her “It’s ready,” and then, depending on my own mood and my sense of hers, I retreat with my breakfast to my chair, or settle at the kitchen table. I put her plate on top of the refigerator to keep it from Trisket, who has stolen many omelets, tuna melts, and bowls of porridge over the years. click
Amanda almost always shows up within fifteen minutes, mostly dressed, mostly ready for school, and she almost always eats what she has chosen.
A few years ago Luli gave me a big electric griddle, and sometimes Amanda makes Sunday pancakes from a mix for the three of us. She has become very adept. She doesn’t need to measure, but judges the batter by its consistency. She knows I like mine small and dark, and she always gives me the little crispy drops that fall on the griddle.
When Amanda was in kindergarten and living with her mother, I used to pick her up to drive her to school. As I drove I would gauge her mood, and ask whether Angel’s Café was open. It usually was, and it was the best breakfast spot in town. The
service was faster than any McDonalds - I asked for coffee and almost
before the words were out of my mouth she was handing me a cup of black
coffee, brewed in the big pot with the wooden spoon that had somehow ended
up in the back seat. The only item on the menu was whatever you want. Sometimes pancakes
with eggs and bacon, sometimes black beans and
rice, spaghetti and meatballs, or best of all, chicken soup. The recipe
is obvious to any five- year-old. “What did you put in the soup?”
I asked. “Chicken.” “And what else?” “Soup!” indignant at my ignorance.
Angel's cafe closed years ago, but I still love going out for breakfast. Then I eat things I don’t cook at home: biscuits with sausage gravy, bacon, stir-fried veggies and tofu, salmon cakes, breakfast burritos.
I know many of our breakfasts don’t fit one diet theory or another: too many simple carbs, or eggs, or Lord preserve us, SUGAR. Feel free to go through the list of what I eat for breakfast and shake your finger at all the food sins: sugar, fat, eggs, potatoes, pesticides on the banana peel, caffeine in the coffee.
Food has powerful emotional resonance. I feel safe when my freezer is full of homemade soups, stews, beans, casseroles. I feel safe when Amanda goes off to school with a full stomach.
I have doubts about so many parts of parenting: the rules, the lessons, the consequences, when to be strict and when to loosen up. I’m not crazy about all the junk food in our lives, but I get in as many vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes as I can, and I don’t have any doubt that eating homemade meals together is good for our souls, and good for our family.