Each generation has its favorite breakfast. My parents and grandparents ate eggs still warm from the hen house. They’d add a few strips of bacon from the hog killed earlier in the year, a couple of leftover biscuits slathered in homemade butter and jelly, and they were ready to meet the day.
Herring was also a regular mealtime item on their Virginia farm. The boney-little fish could be caught, salted down, and stored in a barrel for easy access. (I’ve tried these and they’re definitely an acquired taste based on necessity.)
Memories of Breakfasts Past
By the time I came along, kids were starting the day with hearty bowls of cooked oatmeal or cream of wheat. But after the war, corporate America lured us into buying colorful packages of prefab cereal.
My early breakfast selections were based on the toys that manufacturers inserted in the packaging. Pep cereal was one of my favorites. It wasn’t all that great, but each box came with a small button featuring a comicstrip character. Before my mother could unpack the groceries, I’d grab the cereal box and reach my unwashed little hand deep into the flakes to retrieve the prized button.
Wheaties, in addition to giving us the “Breakfast of Champions,” once printed funny, cut out masks on the back of their boxes. A label from an Ovaltine jar got me a Captain Midnight brass decoder ring that turned my finger green. My parents occasionally ate Cornflakes, which, as I recall, didn’t offer any incentives to purchase.
What’s for Breakfast?
By the time my four kids came along, there were colorful aisles of sugary-sweet, cavity-creating cereals at the supermarket, ranging from Lucky Charms to Fruit Loops. I tried to select the less sweet varieties for the family, such as Cheerios or Kix. But too often one of my little “shopping assistants” sneaked a sweeter version into the grocery cart.
At our farmhouse in Rolla, dry cereal was a backup, a time saver, rather than a regular breakfast. On weekdays we usually had eggs and toast for breakfast, unless the kids were running late for the school bus. We rarely had pastries such as Pop Tarts, donuts or bakery-made sweets. I had grown up without many sugary items in the house (my father was diabetic), so I continued that habit.
While my mother served me freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast (I was an only child), my four kids got the frozen kind they could easily make themselves.
Changing My Ways
For years now, I’ve eaten yogurt with fresh fruit for breakfast with a sprinkle of granola on top, a cup of green tea, and my vitamin D pill. Today my grown kids drink designer smoothies with fresh fruits and powered health supplements. They offer me a sip when we’re at the farm. It tastes okay, but I prefer eating something that requires utensils rather than a straw.
The good thing about retirement is that you can eat breakfast, or not, anytime you want, at home or out, even in bed—though I think that location is highly overrated.
Recently, I’ve returned to my early childhood (in more ways than one). I’m now eating cooked oatmeal as an alternative to my usual yogurt-fruit medley. I like McCann’s Irish Oatmeal. The package says it’s non-GMO, and cholesterol and salt free. As a bonus, it comes with an Irish blessing on the side label: “May you have warm words on a cold evening; a full moon on a dark night; and the road downhill all the way to your door.”
That’s almost as good as a brass decoder ring.