As Sacramento magazine celebrates the day’s first meal by featuring some extraordinary, delectable, calorie-laden dishes from local breakfast hot spots (please see Kira O’Donnell’s “Good Morning!,” beginning on page 102), I have a perspective to share: On most days, breakfast isn’t breakfast anymore. If anything at all is consumed at home on weekday mornings (and it isn’t for most of the people I know), it’s only a half banana or a bowl of dry cereal, sometimes with milk, or a meager pseudo-granola bar drizzled with some nontransfatty coating slammed down during one’s commute. Based upon observing the lines of people at Peet’s or Starbucks at the beginning of the workday, I’d say that for most people, the day’s first “meal” consists solely of a foamy, nonfat half-caff mocha or latte with double whipped cream. (Don’t worry—Kira covers those in her story, too.)
While growing up, 95 percent of the time, my breakfasts were cold cereal with milk. My wife recalls having buttered toast in the morning, which she delight-fully dipped into the hot cocoa her mother served with the bread (ugh).
My father put a couple of spins on his standard morning fare: He’d combine different varieties of cereal, often placing puffed wheat and puffed rice together in the same bowl. Or Wheat Chex with Rice Chex. I haven’t seen that particular integrated breakfast bowl since he prepared it while wearing his Pendleton robe and leather slippers long ago. I do some blending of my own. I am adept at mixing all sorts of cereals: Wheaties with Life, Grape Nuts with Crunchy Corn Bran. As a kid, I pioneered a Sugar Pops and Sugar Smacks blend (and had the cavities to prove it).
My father also was quite fond of the original Nabisco Shredded Wheat cereal, which consisted of rounded rolls of blended wheat that had to be broken apart to be eaten. The large rolls were coarse and dry and would not fit easily into a bowl, but Dad held the rounds of wheat under hot water from the kitchen faucet to soften them up before he’d put them in his bowl and pour in the milk and sugar. I suppose this is why, to this day, I prefer my cereal soggy—and, much to my wife’s dismay, often will let it sit awhile to get mushy. (Perhaps a payback for having to hear about her buttered toast in cocoa?)
True breakfasts—with rich aromas and tastes—make the ultimate comfort food. Although they aren’t good for us, packed full of cheeses and syrups and sausages, we savor them as we momentarily escape the worries and tasks that beset us as we begin the day. And they beat the hell out of blended bowls of soggy cereal and foamy warm beverages.