Dinner may be pleasant,
So may social tea;
But yet methinks that breakfast
Is the best of all the three. -Anonymous
It is curious how many of us love breakfast and the foods we associate with it. Perhaps it’s because breakfast is so closely tied to home. Maybe because it is the only meal where reading the newspaper is permissible. Could it possibly be because it is acceptable to eat it while still in your pajamas? The associations of this meal with warm kitchens, good smells, and general sense of well-being and optimism for the new day are the most likely keys.
There was a time when breakfast was the leftovers of the previous day’s dinner and consisted of meat, bread and ale for those sufficiently well off to have such in the first place. By the time the colonists were in early New England, the first meal was frequently bread and milk or cider-flavored water. As life improved, hasty pudding, a cereal porridge, became commonplace, as were baked apples, milk and berries, Indian griddle cakes with maple syrup and honey. Our John Adams, by all accounts a temperate man, consumed a large tankard of hard cider with breads, meats and porridge. Hobbits, who expect six meals a day, including a second breakfast, would have approved of the heartiness of such menus, if not the frequency of their arrival on the table. The breakfast table didn’t lighten up until caffeine in the form of tea and coffee made its inroads into our cultures. Aristocrats and urbanites began to prefer sweet and simple breads with preserved fruits and butter for breakfast with their beverage of choice. Only country people then still insisted on meat for their first meal.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t until the 19thC that the formidable full English breakfast made its debut. Clearly, it was a prosperous time for the Empire as breakfast could consist of eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, black pudding, beans, kippers, toast, and marmalade. If the English could embrace the concept of believing six impossible things before breakfast, then breakfast might as well be one of them. The magnitude and scope of the meal would give even a hobbit pause.
For decades, we have been given consistent advice about breakfast. In summary, eat it. When you wake in the morning the blood sugar that your body needs to make its muscles and brain function is typically quite low. Breakfast replenishes that blood sugar, sending energy to the sleep-sluggish physical and mental workforces of your being. It kick-starts the metabolism and gets it operating at peak efficiency. Many studies have linked the routine of breakfast to significant health benefits, including better memory, lower risks of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Children who skip breakfast are more likely to experience difficulty in focusing on subject matter, more likely to tire easily and faster, and more prone to restlessness and crankiness.
Even avid Mark Twain fans might balk at his breakfast advice to “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” However the list of more appealing choices is nearly boundless. The cold cereals that dominated the national breakfast table are giving way to the return of hot porridges, omelets, stir-fry scrambles and good old bacon and eggs. Today’s recipe is a porridge of farro and some of that deliciously sweet fruit that you froze last summer.