A Hamburger Today
In Defense of Breakfast: A Morning Manifesto
As your new Serious Eats breakfast correspondent, ready to take you on a journey of the pre-noon delicious, I feel the need to first defend my favorite meal of the day. As meals go, breakfast is a polarizing one. In this country, at least, no one denies the need for lunch or dinner. But for many otherwise serious eaters, breakfast is overlooked or under-enjoyed—a granola bar gobbled in the pantry, a drive-through cup of coffee, or nothing at all.
There’s a litany of typical breakfast excuses: "I’m not hungry in the morning." “I don’t have time for a full meal." "My stomach complains if I eat before noon." Some people just aren’t breakfast people. (Which is funny, when you think about it. Few claim not to be “dinner people.”) But in the opposite camp are the devoted breakfastophiles—those who couldn’t imagine starting the day without a hearty fill-up.
As you may have guessed, I’m a breakfastophile. But it's our wildly divergent attitudes toward breakfast in themselves that make the meal so fascinating. Breakfast means something different to everyone. It can be a perfect cappuccino or three plates at the Easter buffet. In France, it might be a simple toasted baguette; across the Channel, it’s an eight-part fry-up. No other meal ranges so fully from sweet to savory, healthy to indulgent, nibble to feast. Breakfast can be a gooey, crumbly cake or a plate full of meat. Fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese, fish—nothing is off-limits.
But despite its versatility, breakfast is the meal with which we’re most likely to fall into a pattern. Most of us don’t eat exactly the same thing for dinner every night (although in a creative dry spell, we might feel like we do). Breakfast, on the other hand, is habit-bound. Plenty of us pour from the same box of cereal every morning.
And while you might love sushi or fish and chips—Japanese and British imports—you probably don’t eat fermented soybeans or blood sausage for breakfast. Our first meal is the one that's most closely tied to tradition. In his pseudo cookbook, Eat Me, Kenny Shopsin said just that about eggs: "Of all the foods I sell, eggs are eaten the most habitually. Everyone who eats eggs has a special way of eating them.... Most people get a peaceful look on their face and go someplace else."
Artists might say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, for a food writer, breakfast just might be the same.
So what's your stance on breakfast? Can't stomach it, or can't live without it?