Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Most Important Meal of the Day

I'm a cook. It's one of the things I really enjoy doing. I love to select the fresh ingredients. I love pouring over recipe sites, cook books or just experimenting on my own to create the perfect dish. I like creating a repertoire of menu items that I can duplicate without thought to feed my hungry brood. I have, however, struggled with breakfast. You know, breakfast -- the most important meal of the day. That's what they say, isn't it? Whoever they are, they say that. So, with that bit of knowledge I take that as my challenge to create delicious, healthy, savory and sweet meals for breakfast since it's so important.

I have several dishes in my rotation. Drew's favorites are generally bread based -- my little carb lover. He enjoys things like homemade waffles (we don't buy Eggo's here), pancakes (again, homemade), and French toast (to die for!) Josh enjoys a variety of breakfast items and generally never complains about anything. He likes biscuits with gravy (homemade, of course), bird's nest (toast with fried egg in the center), any kind of my assortment of breakfast sandwiches and, well, generally anything egg based. The child loves eggs.

Andy, he's so wonderful and is always just thankful and gracious to have a breakfast plate prepared for him...whatever it is. I don't know for sure what he really likes best. Perhaps I should ask. I know he likes omelets but I truly suck at those so I don't even try. Burned eggs stink. And frankly, aren't omelets just like an open-faced, smothered and covered dish of scrambled eggs. The only difference is that they're not in a cute little wrapped up little egg burrito. I'd feel bad wasting those chickens' hard work on burned omelets.

I don't suppose I have a favorite breakfast meal either. I mean, I enjoy breakfast but I'm fond of simple things like plain waffles topped with warm berries (because when you nuke them to defrost them (I buy the frozen combo bag) they create this delicious natural syrup so you don't need any maple syrup on it at all (less calories! Bonus!)) I like really GOOD granola and plain vanilla no-fat yogurt topped with a sliced banana. I crave strawberry-banana smoothies (no fat here either!) and I love the sugar-free Carnation Instant Breakfast chocolate shake mixes...and toast. Toast. Toooooast.

Other dishes in the rotation are more simple, others are a tad more complex. Regardless the skill level, I look forward and take time each Sunday to plan out what we'll be having so that I'm prepared.

Rarely do I ever use any kind of pre-packaged, canned items because after starting to read labels, it's scary all the "stuff" they put into our foods that we just blindly consume. Have you ever SEEN the labels of your food? Can you even pronounce half that crap? Yeah, me either!

However, items like cinnamon rolls are still canned because I haven't figured out how to make them in advance so that we can still enjoy them hot and fresh and me NOT have to get up at 3am to make them (so they have time to rise). If you HAVE a recipe that is freezeable or even make-ahead and store in the refrigerator, do let me know!

I also make a mean Aztec quiche. This is a new one to the rotation as Andy told me he didn't eat quiche. Actually I think he didn't want to eat anything that was named "quiche" but trust me, he eats it! Can you be a manly man and still enjoy quiche? I guess that's the question of the day.

Generally speaking I try to make a hot breakfast at least 5 days a week. Since school started, however, Fridays are cold cereal days because Josh has to leave for school at 7am (guitar lessons) which means madness for me if I had to prepare a hot breakfast and get people down to eat it while it was still hot. I think I may, however, start making breakfast in the crock pot the night before so that we may have a hot breakfast on Fridays, too.

Saturdays here are usually home cooked and we're in a (horrible) tradition of buying donuts on Sundays. I think I'm going to change that rule and have us only buy donuts two weekend a month. They're hell on my diet! Seriously! Ungh!

The funny thing, however, is how seriously I take my "job" as a mom and provider of morning fuel and nutrition for my boys... when I can't ever remember eating breakfast as a kid during the week (unless I was at my grandma's.) If I had stayed the night at Mawmaw's she'd wake me up and what I wanted for breakfast. I'd answer, "I don't know," and she'd reply, "Well, I'm all out of that." It was a silly little breakfast banter we did just about every day. However, the conversation usually resulted in either biscuits and gravy with Jimmy Dean sausage, or "belly button" (over-easy) eggs and toast.

So, at Mawmaw's we ate breakfast but during the week at my house we just slept as long as possible. However, Saturdays mom went ALL out at breakfast. We had fried potatoes, eggs, bacon, toast -- the works. During the week -- not so much.

I just think of how many things have changed since I was a child. I don't ever recall hearing how important it was to feed your kids breakfast before school. I don't even know if any of my friends had breakfast either. I'm sure some did but I know lots that don't.

I remember a few times eating breakfast AT school and how cool I thought that was. I loved school but I hated going to school early and going into the cafeteria to wait at the red and blue tables for the bell to ring... and having to suffer... sitting there... smelling the toast they'd made. Oh the glorious toast they had at Townley Elementary! Perfectly crisp on both sides, thick and buttery. They had great toast. Great toast. Toast is one of those childhood memories that I hold very near and dear to my heart...

Toast? Yes, toast. That simple act of baking a slice of bread... and sharing it with someone you love just takes me back...back to my MawMaw's kitchen table (my dad's mom and my favorite grandma). Lots of times at night, before bed when she needed to take some medication, she'd take one of her round silver cake pans and she'd slice a roll or two and toast them in the oven for the both of us. If we didn't have rolls, we'd even used hot dog buns.... any kind of bread toasts up just fine. Simplicity at its finest. We'd have a small glass of milk and a nice piece of toast slathered with real butter -- none of that sissy stuff! We'd share some great conversation. I'm sure it was full of the most important topics of the day. It was a great memory and a great tradition I shared with her. I loved that one on one time with her.

The other day I got to share this memory with my boys... about how I love toast. Monday morning was a little chilly so I made some oatmeal for the boys for breakfast. I had sliced up some fresh strawberries and had those in little bowls next to their oatmeal. As they found their way to the table, I was bringing them some toast. Josh received the first two slices from our four-slot toaster. He likes his bread buttered, just like me. Drew is a little different -- he's not a fan of butter. His toast he eats dry. (Yuck!) Since Drew only wanted one slice I was left with the dilemma -- do I let this piece get cold, butter it and wait for Andy to come down or heck, should I eat it? I chose the only knowledgeable thing to do of course -- I ate it! I smeared a little pat of butter on the toast and then took one crunchy bite and instantly was taken back to my grandmother's oval cherry-wood kitchen table that was covered with some seasonal vinyl table cloth that had been purchased at K-Mart or Gibson's.

It was then that I professed to my children that, "I love toast." Then, I shared with them why. They both just smiled and took it in.

I hope they are building some kind of fond memories from the kitchen with their grandmothers... even if it's not over breakfast... but over some other meal. I think when you're creating a tradition and a memory with your children and/or grandchildren THAT BECOMES the most important meal of the day. Don't you agree?

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