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}


  1. So. Many. Memories. Yes, to the Dad bringing long johns home...ours from the IGA in Piqua. And he kept sandwich cookies in the cupboard that we could crumble into our yellow-box Cheerios. And hot Jello!! The champion of soothing sore throats. Any "my stomach hurts" got 7-up. :) :)

    1. Who are you, because we seem to have lived the same life!!! :)
      Our doughnuts were usually from the little shop in Covington or Arcanum, depending on where his errands were. And I thought we were the ONLY ONES with the hot Jello!
      Your comment made my day.

    2. I haven't found too many others who did hot Jello, and my husband declared me crazy the first time I tried to give him some (he's from a transplanted Kentucky family via southern IN living in what he calls the flatlands of western Ohio - he just keeps drinking tea and trying to make up for the persistent 10-degree temp drop).

      I found you through the Hicks - graduated from high school with Shawn. :) Enjoy your writing tremendously and am looking forward to your book!

  2. Steel cut oats are the way to go........

    And I'm sure I did subscribe to the newsletter, but am not sure! How do I find out? :-)

    1. That is a very good question...I've only sent one out so far (gah) and it was before I went to Ecuador. Did you get that one? Showing what I packed for the trip? (ha!)

    2. Yes! So I guess I am signed up! :-) Whew...thought I had been missing stuff! :-)

  3. we ate a sit-down breakfast every day before going our separate ways. M-W-F was hot; T-Th-Sat was cold. by we, i mean my mom and dad and my sister and i. hard to fathom now, but it did help set the tone for the day in its own quiet way. i hated washing the fork tines when we had eggs. we didn't get to have sugared cereal, and by this i mean honey nut cheerios and occasionally lucky charms, until we were in middle or high school. my mom went back to work when i was in fourth grade and my sister was in first. still, we had breakfast and dinner together daily.

    my son saw his dad before he left for work, but neither of them are breakfast eaters. they're not morning people in general. i am thinking about breakfast from the moment i wake up through the half hour i have to wait for the daily meds i take to be absorbed by my empty stomach. my favorite breakfast is a smoothie with greens, almond milk, half a frozen banana or sweet potato, 3 dates, 2 T. cocoa powder, and 2 T. of almond butter. half an avocado makes this incredibly creamy.

    only drawback is i don't get to chew.

    one more thing: my daily bread is now gluten-free, but it's this amazing recipe:

  4. Thank you for this. I was so excited to find gluten free oats in my hometown grocery store this week, but they took WAY too long to cook in the busy morning. This nighttime prep is going to save me! I can identify with those comfortable memories of childhood meals. Here's to doing our best to creating the same for our kiddos!

  5. I think we were connected a LONG time ago...because HOT JELLO?! My mom made the same--always red because orange and yellow and green were nasty, or so we said. Luke thought I was crazy.

  6. Hot Jello. Genius! I must try this next time anyone in my bunch is sick. Apparently we don't do this where I live?? I was always told to use bourbon and honey with a squeeze of lemon, but this IS Kentucky, where the answer to everything is bourbon.

    Also, I've never heard of anyone putting yogurt in their oatmeal but I am SO intrigued! I need to know more. What in the world can this possibly taste like? It looks absolutely delicious but is it tart? Creamy? Why am I so mind-blown by oatmeal with yogurt? Questions for Jesus....

  7. I really, really love this post---memories are so simple, yet incredibly complex.

    And your oatmeal sounds---and looks---lovely.

  8. I adore your print " Love has come to walk among us." I tried looking through your blog posts, but didn't see anything about where its from. Would you mind telling me?
    BTW - I'm an adoptive Momma too! Love your blog and I love that you share so much of your faith and adoption story!

    1. Yes, it came from:
      Hope that helps!!

  9. I don't remember a lot about the every day breakfasts of my childhood. I do remember the warm, loved, spoiled (our family can afford this?!) feeling that came from camping breakfasts. My parents would splurge for the little individual boxes of all the cereals a kid adored. You had to perforate that impossible cardboard line and then, like a brain surgeon, open the plastic bag inside so the milk could be poured Right.Into.The.Box. In those moments, I was the luckiest kid around.

  10. I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS! I kept waiting for you to focus on the negative aspect of eating too much sugar for breakfast as a child! I obviously was looking at the surface, and I love that you didn't. Your walk down memory lane was so comforting and telling ... I ate a hot Vanilla Cream Pop-tart, wrapped in a paper towel, curled up in the living room chair by myself most mornings before school. This was great because it embraced everyone and our differences. :)

  11. Replies
    1. I don't use any, but it sounds like a decent idea now that you mention it. :)

    2. I added a scant teaspoon. Just finished my first bowl this morning. So good!!!

  12. My Mom also made me hot jello when I was sick. Just thinking about that puts me back in her kitchen. She is gone now, thanks so much for the memories. I hope my kids will have good ones too!

  13. I've had this saved forever and am making it tonight while our house is full of youth group kids - looking forward to Monday morning breakfast! Thank you!

  14. Wow, this is fantastic! And I just happen to be on an oatmeal kick. Thanks for sharing.

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