NATURAL-BORED CEREAL KILLER
WHY EAT CONVENTIONAL CORNFLAKES OR TOAST FOR BREAKFAST WHEN THERE’S A FEAST OF FANTASTIC FOOD AVAILABLE FOR YOUR MORNING MUNCHIES?
Let me tell you what my grandparents in Hong Kong eat for breakfast – dumplings. Is your mouth watering yet? Let me tell you about those dumplings. Big bamboo steamers stuffed full of them – prawn dumplings that glisten like pearls; fat pork buns begging to be torn apart; long, slippery slices of cheung fun swimming in soy sauce. My grandparents get up, they do tai chi and then they make their way across the road to the dim sum restaurant for a spot of yum cha. At eight in the morning.
When I was a kid and marinated in Western culture this practice seemed strange to me. Dumplings! For breakfast! Absolutely not – and I cannot stress this enough. Pass the Sultana Bran, please.
But as I’ve gotten older, and I’ve cast off the shackles of Big Cereal, I’ve realised more and more that my grandparents understood more than me the most important thing you need to know about breakfast – you should eat whatever you want.
The idea that breakfast foods can only be drawn from one trifling list of acceptable dishes really began, as most destructive things – single-use plastic, brain-rotting television – did in the 1950s. Sure, the Industrial Revolution in the Western world widely introduced the concept of an early morning meal. It’s hard to work long, sweaty hours if you don’t have a full stomach, isn’t it? But it wasn’t until after the rationing and scarcity of World War II was cast off that the breakfast we recognise today became
commonplace. Toasters, sliced bread, instant coffee and oversized boxes of cereal began staking their claim on shop shelves. They were already laughably commonplace in the US.
Since then, breakfast has seen remarkably little innovation. Add in muesli (thanks Switzerland) or pastries (thanks France or Scandinavia) or maple syrup on pancakes (thanks Canada) and you have the menu of a pretty Instagrammable cafe anywhere in Australia. Sure, the sliced toast might have some avocado smashed on top of it and the instant coffee will definitely have been replaced with freshly ground beans, but the bare bones of it is the same meal that the Western world has been eating in the same way for decades and decades.
It is not like this anywhere else in the world. My Chinese grandparents wouldn’t dream of sitting down for a plate of pancakes for breakfast any more than a family in Mexico would swap their chilaquiles – those fried tortillas with an egg, beans and a spicy sauce – for a bowl of muesli. In Japan they eat a breakfast not that dissimilar from what they eat throughout the day: miso soup, a small piece of fish and pickled vegetables. There’s fried plantain and some rice on the table in Nigeria; boiled eggs and tvorog (a sort of cottage cheese variant) in Russia; saltfish and hot chocolate tea in Jamaica.
I’m a breakfast fiend, I want to eat them all. And that’s kind of the point. We know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the one where we should be consuming our largest amount of calories. Why are we wasting them eating the same foods that we’ve been eating for generations, over and over again in perpetuity? Every other meal has seen innovation and appropriation and change, while breakfast stands as some kind of stagnant, immoveable paean to a different time.
Well, no longer. It’s time to make a stand. If what you really love eating in the morning is a bowl of porridge, or scrambled eggs on a thick slice of sourdough, that’s fine. Keep eating it. But if you’ve been forcing yourself to eat the same wedge of toast each morning or have been battling through packet after packet of cereal, now is your chance to overthrow our controlling breakfast overlords. Now is the chance to eat whatever the hell you want for breakfast! Leftover pizza! Dumplings! A little bit of daal mopped up with some naan bread! The world is your oyster. (Eat that for breakfast, too.)
The late poet Mary Oliver asked us: “What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?” I’m pretty sure she wasn’t talking about the breakfast menu, and yet the quote seems pretty pertinent here. We only get one wild and precious life, people. And I’m not going to spend it eating cornflakes.