Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Breakfast of Champions

I've always wondered why it's okay to eat donuts for breakfast, but it's not okay to eat cake. Seriously? What's the difference? So, I'm on a crusade to change the way we look at food.

I know it's purely a cultural thing - having foods that are deemed appropriate for certain meals. Here in America, breakfast foods are well defined and specific, and there are things people eat for that first meal of the day that they will never eat at any other time of day. Or they will eat those foods, but always with the label "Breakfast for Dinner." Like pancakes, which are always breakfast food, and sausage patties. Why can't we eat sausage for dinner with whipped potatoes and biscuits?

Eggs are a stereotypical breakfast food. Well, except that some people eat eggs for other meals. It seems to be more in the way it is prepared. Eggs fried, poached, or scrambled are breakfast food. Eggs in a quiche or boiled are not breakfast food. Which is actually kind of silly, because it's still an egg. Right?

And the above mentioned sausage. Some "sausage" (that is, a cured meat) is never eaten at breakfast, like pepperoni.

After I'd been in Germany for only a couple of weeks, I traveled by train to Berlin with a group of other soldiers. We slept on the train and arrived in Berlin in the morning. We all wanted breakfast, but one of the soldiers insisted on an "American-style breakfast." I pointed out the McDonalds, but what he wanted was a home-cooked, sit-down, bacon-eggs-biscuits-and-gravy meal. He'd been in Germany for a couple of months, or so I was told. I'd been there for two weeks. I said, "You're not going to get that here", but he couldn't hear me over the rumble of his belly, and undaunted, we walked around Berlin for three hours, looking for some place to get breakfast. By then, it was lunch time. We ate lunch at the Hard Rock Café. Apparently, he had never considered the sage advice, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

I learned quickly after that experience, and I didn't spend much time with folks who couldn't adapt. With the exception of when I ate at the dining facility (where I could get a real American breakfast), when I was in Germany, I ate sandwiches for breakfast, and I don't mean breakfast sandwiches with egg, sausage or bacon, and cheese on a biscuit a la Egg McMuffin. I mean Brotchen (which is a little roll) with some cheese and coffee. That was breakfast.

The words we use for meals aren't really meant to be descriptive of the food that is eaten. We don't really eat "breakfast for dinner", unless we really do, in the sense that we don't eat all day, and then we break our fast at what most people consider dinner (or supper, depending on the part of the country where one lives) time. In American culture, we don't really know or think about the fact that breakfast means the first meal after fasting for a period (like when we sleep). It is a break fast and really has nothing to do with eggs and bacon or pancakes or Brotchen mit Kase. It's not about the food that makes up the meal, but rather about when the meal is consumed.

It's possible that certain foods have traditionally been consumed at certain times of day, because of the caloric or nutritional value of those foods. Like foods high in protein, perhaps, are consumed in the first part of the day, because protein gives us energy to get through the day. It's just a theory.

So, my goal is to debunk the notion that certain foods are only appropriate at certain times of the day. This morning, I had beans from breakfast. I almost had leftover chili. Maybe I'll have that tomorrow.


  1. I eat leftover dinner for breakfast most mornings. Chili, roasted veggies, beans and rice, etc. My family has a bizarre distaste for leftovers, while I can eat the same thing every single meal for 3 days running. ;-) nothing goes to waste, eh? It's already cooked, and ready to go with 2 minutes of "nuke" time.

  2. The big "American" style breakfast (which has roots in British breakfasts) was most popular on farms and was served several hours after the family awoke and had already done some hard labor of early farm chores (like milking, feeding and watering animals, and mucking out stalls). You needed the calories and a big meal to keep you going until lunchtime.

    Funnily enough, also on farms, since lunch was the big, hot meal of the day, supper or the evening meal was often a much lighter affair. Cooked cereals with milk, pancakes, fruit and cream, toast, and simple egg dishes were common.

    I have to have something sweet for breakfast, so oatmeal with maple syrup or some toast with peanut butter and jam does it for me. If I eat too big a breakfast actually I feel a little ill. But since we're city-dwellers and work outside of the home, supper is the big hot meal of the day and often late at night. Which isn't great for your health, but there you go. That's what happens when both people work outside the home - no one has time to make a nice lunch!