Look of breakfast deserves a sideways glance

“I can’t believe you are fixing that,” came the 5:30 AM whining as my son and daughter filed zombielike to the breakfast table. “You know I don’t like that kind of cheese on scrambled eggs. It’s only okay if you’re making an omelet,” one of them said.

“Not cantaloupe. I hate cantaloupe! How many times have I told you that?” the other said. Well, you didn’t TELL me, but rather hid your cantaloupe in the oven, where it perished. I guess I was supposed to figure out from that.

I respond, “You know where to find the (stale by now) cereal (that you absolutely had to have, then promptly stopped eating once I actually purchased it).”

Welcome to my daily thankless morn of nutritional scorn, where two ungrateful minors have major reactions to my ongoing effort to jump-start their days with creative, healthy grub, when it would be far easier to throw them a Pop-Tart and call it good. Was I that bad as a kid? I don hip waders for a trip down memory lane.

Despite having twice as many mouths to feed, family breakfast preparation seems like it was a lot easier for my mom than it has been for me. My older sister fixated on Carnation Instant Breakfast. That is all she would consume every morning during most of her formative years. And bonus: she fixed it herself! One envelope in a glass of milk constituted a complete breakfast.

I was equally easy to please, with my obsessive-compulsive thing for Carnation chocolate chip-flavored breakfast bars. I ate one for breakfast all through middle school, to the end of high school, then on into college, until their maker radically altered their makeup and I gave up.

My two younger siblings favored get-it-yourself, overly-sweetened cereal, mostly for the chintzy prizes only an elementary-aged kid could love that were found in every box. Count Chocula, Fruity Pebbles, and Saccharine-Saturated Flakes (with synthetic marshmallows) were some of their favorites. My dad was even less particular with his cereal: Bran Flakes, Bran Flakes and more Bran Flakes – for decades! His breakfast routine was as regular as it kept him.

Although our grocery buyer, my mom’s biggest breakfast decision was about what to eat, herself. She hated eggs and oatmeal, didn’t have time to fix pancakes, waffles or French toast on school days, and wasn’t big on instant stuff, like Pop-Tarts. She narrowed her own list of choices to bread with cheese (a slice of cheese broiled atop a bread slice, a neighbor’s Weight Watchers program recipe), perennially healthy Grape Nuts, and inversely unhealthy mini Shredded Wheat sautéed in butter. Really.

It’s different at my house, where my two children combine finicky with large muscle group-paralysis when it comes to making and eating breakfast, but have ample vocal cord control to complain about what I fix.

That’s somewhat of an exaggeration. There is one breakfast meal my children never complain about: lightly toasted deli Asiago bagels topped with my original sausage and sage cream cheese spread. But it’s expensive and not as healthy as some other options. Plus, there’s often a breakdown along the bagel supply chain, as a lot of other people also like Asiago bagels and they’re often sold out by the time I get to the store. The cream cheese spread, alone, takes me 45 minutes to make.

I haven’t ruled out making a ridiculously large batch of the stuff and purchasing a huge crate of the Asiago bagels, thus benching myself from the early morning breakfast prep line-up for several weeks. But I hate to see the breakfast rebels win. And with my luck, the bagel stash would attract rodents.

So I have adopted a new strategy: I serve tried and true dinner meals in place of breakfast at least twice per week. Don’t like my breakfast quiches, English muffin sandwiches and yogurt parfaits? Here’s roast beef and mashed potatoes, turkey barley soup or bratwurst on a bun. Take that family meal!

Despite the charm of dinner breakfast, the inevitable question eventually arose, “Mom, when are we going to have REAL breakfast again?” When complaints turn to compliments. In the interim, shut up and eat your breakfast soup.


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