Breakfast: Important Yet Complicated by Jamie Beckett

Breakfast: Important Yet Complicated
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett

The most important meal of the day.

When did breakfast become such a serious decision making process? Was I asleep? Did I miss an important message from the surgeon general of the United States? Did Julia Child come back from the dead? Perhaps Oprah had an epiphany while I was distracted by something shiny and expensive. I have no idea, but somewhere along the line breakfast went from being the most important meal of the day to the most complicated decision of my life.

It wasn’t always this way. Nope. Breakfast used to be simple. Time consuming for some, quick and easy for others, but it wasn’t what it’s become today.

My granddad ate the same breakfast every day of his life. From the age of 5 until he died at 88, the man was a steadfast breakfast eater and his diet never wavered an inch. All you had to do was give granddad a glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee, place it next to a plate filled with two fried eggs, grits, bacon, and white toast with real butter, and he was in business. Give him a few minutes to chew and he’d be out the door ready for the day. Truth be told, for at least sixty-five of those eighty-eight years he included an unfiltered Pall Mall or two with his morning meal.

Why not for goodness sake? Cigarettes were good for ya’ in the old days. John Wayne smoked. Your doctor smoked. Your dad and mom smoked, and so did the minister of the biggest church in town. In fact, if you didn’t smoke you just might be a sissie, or a yankee, or something.

Now nobody smokes and everybody is worried about what’s for breakfast. Judging from the prepackaged food I see down at the grocery store, I’m apparently not getting enough iron, or B-vitamins, or protein, or fiber.

Don’t laugh, you’ve got the same problem. We can’t eat breakfast like granddad anymore. The eggs have too much cholesterol. The caffeine might raise our blood pressure. The butter on our toast would kill us dead, and let’s not even get into the question of gluten in the bread. The orange juice has too much sugar, the bacon is loaded with saturated fats, and the grits are packed with carbs. At least that’s what they tell us. And by “they” I mean anyone with a stethoscope, a marketing degree, or a new breakfast bar they’re selling from the back of a van behind the high school cafeteria.

When I was a kid the breakfast cereal boom was upon us. Suddenly grits had competition. There were all sorts of breakfast cereals designed to fill you up, and apparently to fill you out. The main ingredients of the two cereals that made it into my house were sugar and marshmallows. I think there was some wheat in there, too, but that was incidental. It was probably just left over from the donuts or coffee cakes the company made during off-shift hours.

As I look back on it now I have to question the validity of our thinking about breakfast. By the eighth grade my brother was pushing 200 pounds, and my sister was even bigger. I was not exactly reed-thin myself. Sure our cholesterol numbers were good and our risk of heart attack due to dietary choices was low. But the risk of stroke or embolism from trying to get up out of a chair was getting higher by the minute.

To this day, I’m amazed we survived. It was only our decision to move away from the old homestead and embrace true poverty that saved us. Because it was there in poverty that we all returned to the cost-effective diet of eggs, bacon, grits, and toast. A cup of coffee never hurt, either, and orange juice was free, as long as we waited for the neighbors with the orange trees to go to work – and if their dogs weren’t in the yard.

Yep, breakfast is a pretty important meal. I’d rank it in my top five anyway. Right up there with dinner, supper, the pre-lunch snack, and of course, grazing in front of the television. I just wish it would be less of a challenge to pick out what’s okay to eat, and what’s not. Because the cigarettes taste terrible without all that other stuff to keep my taste buds busy.