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.

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