Thursday, March 24, 2016

On Breakfast.

When I was a kid, breakfast wasn't altogether straight-forward. There were Corelleware bowls filled with sugar-sweetened cereal, the empty calories hugging the rim. We almost always went back for seconds, and then after school most days, thirds.

Some Saturdays my dad would wheel away from our drowsy house with his tiny bank ledger-book in the pocket of his work shirt, Dwight stitched across it in navy cursive. He would return home a few hours later smelling like the hardware store, with a white waxed-paper bag full of long johns and jelly-filleds. Powdered sugar became the taste of luck and love. I never took it for granted.

When I was in the 4th grade my mom went back to college. Things would be changing, we were told. And they did. We spent extra time with dad while she studied. He took us to dog shows, rare-pet shops, obscure errands, and the food court at the mall after church some Sundays.

Once he drove us twenty miles away to the Super Sale in a college arena, a sort of revival-service for the junk-deprived. We milled around the carnival of dingy booths, garish starving-artist landscapes in oil, carved pocket knives, must-have electronics that now sit somewhere all dusty and defunct. For years, our hunger for this strange excess couldn't be sated though we never bought a thing.

Back home, my mom bit her lip bruised with a pile of text books and a 2-liter of Pepsi. But sometimes, in the morning, she dunked bread into egg and fried it in the peeling non-stick pan.

Before long, she was an R.N. working thirds.
There was more money and a different kind of stress, but when one of us was sick, she'd cut buttered toast into narrow strips and stack them into the shape of a little house. When our throats were raw she boiled strawberry Jell-O and served it to us warm, in a mug.

There were packets of maple oatmeal and cinnamon sugar Pop Tarts.
There were pancakes with Mrs. Buttersworth and, when we were lucky, Toaster Strudels.

Not once did I go hungry. Every single breakfast was the quiet companionship of a well-loved life, whether I noticed or not.

In the end, it never mattered if it was a from-scratch day or one where I scarfed an Eggo then watched out the window for the bus, hoping mom might swing into the lane just in time to drive us to school in the little gray Sunbird. That four-minute drive carried us all through the next seven hours. I'd sit in World History, or Biology and think of her with the shades drawn, sound asleep. I'd wish I was there with her.

Food gives shape to memory.

For better or worse, my own kids will remember eating breakfast each weekday with their friends at school and, hopefully, the lazy "home days" where we haul the griddle up from the basement and take it slow.

Like me, they'll remember plastic cereal-bowls after school and the way they always begged for seconds. Calvin will remember learning to fry his own eggs when he was barely tall enough to reach the stove-top.

So, I raise my steaming mug of Earl Grey to the rhythms that form us and the inexplicable comfort of daily bread, whatever shape it happens to take.

Happy Thursday!


PS: I've been having a big of technological difficulty this week but I'm hoping it's *mostly* resolved. Thanks for hanging in there with me! I'm working on a few things that I'm super excited to share with you guys. Like, geeky-excited. Trust me, you'll want to subscribe to my newsletter. :)

My Favorite 5-Minute, Overnight, Steel Cut Oatmeal

1. Melt 1 tsp of butter or coconut oil in a large, lidded stock pot or sauce pan.
2. Add 2 cups of dry steel cut oats.
3. Stir often for 3-4 minutes, until they smell delicious and toasty and start to brown a bit.
4. Pour 5 cups of water into pan and give it a good stir.
5. Bring to a boil, then turn burner off.
6. Add a bit of vanilla and a couple of cinnamon sticks (or a strong sprinkle of ground cinnamon).
7. Put lid on pan.
8. Go to bed.

In the morning, give it another stir, portion it into a bowl, and nuke it for 2 minutes.
Add your favorite toppings. (I don't add any sweetener to the pan, but usually drizzle maple syrup on mine, and the kids like a few chocolate chips.)
Stow left-overs in the fridge for the rest of the week.

{pumpkin puree, chia seeds, plain Greek yogurt, walnuts, maple syrup}

{fresh raspberries, chia seeds, plain Greek yogurt, slivered almonds, maple syrup}

{sliced Cara Cara oranges, plain Greek yogurt, chia seeds, maple syrup}