I’m not going to write about what I had for breakfast today… but I am going to write about the evolution of my lifelong love affair with breakfast as an event and experience.
It began with the simple pleasure of a hot dish in a cold kitchen. My brother and I would sit on dinette chairs so cold the vinyl was cracking. The warmest place in the kitchen before mealtime was by my ankles, next to the forced hot air vent. Then came our prescriptive dosage of Sudafed (given to us the way other children received vitamins) and the dishes of Cream of Wheat. I’d take a dollop of applesauce on mine; my brother would drown it in milk and sugar. If we weren’t squabbling, there would be a moment of warm, homey, contentment, an occasional bright streak of applesauce that had yet to be mushed in, and then we’d be off to school in the snow.
Easter Sundays brought us the singular predictable occasion of my father making breakfast, which, as one might guess, was a major production. Eggs of all kinds, bacon, toast, all the orange juice we wanted, sometimes even a half-grapefruit which my father made quick work of with a steak knife. We’d leave the table a little distended, and a little less interested in the candy the Bunny left behind in our baskets.
But tThese are the pleasures of childhood, the little tender, determined shoots, green and going somewhere.
On my way through my teens, I’d drive my slower-metabolized friends insane with my summer breakfast habits, which consisted of rolling out of bed around 10:30 in an old t-shirt and sitting down to whatever was left of the half-gallon brick of Heavenly Hash ice cream and a spoon… and the stereo on. By then, the vinyl piping on the dinette chairs had been stripped away, lying loose, ready to take a slice out of uncovered legs. I made a point of wearing sweatpants in the summer swelter.
College brought the first of the quasi-adult breakfast pleasures – the all you can eat dining hall, where I did just that. Consequences were not immediate, but they were lasting. And while my trousers became less comfortable, I did have the joy of singing together in harmony with my girlfriends from VanMeter South – mostly selections from Squeeze’s 45’s and Under – and dishing about who did what the night before.
The second of the quasi-adult practices, the morning-after breakfast, could go either way. But these I remember fondly with the serious boyfriend I made my junior year, coinciding with an off-campus move. Saturday or Sunday morning, we’d get into his car and head off to Rooster’s or Steeplejacks, the bustle of plates and hangover remedies around us, eggs, bacon, toast, and … Coffee. Well, that made me an adult and then some.
Then he was gone to greener, faster pastures, and I began to have breakfast with friends, but also alone. Sitting at the counter, I could watch the interactions, quiet and otherwise; pine for my lost love, or not; keep my eyes peeled for friends or someone I might like to meet.
Post college, other boyfriends brought other breakfast habits and locales – Pie in the Sky in Woods Hole, Country Life in Falmouth, the best blueberry pancakes I ever had in a diner in Woburn. There was also the coffee at the table, or, if I was lucky, black coffee in bed with the newspaper.
But more often than not, breakfast became what I gave to myself as a treat. At my first startup, the one time you could not find me at my desk was Sunday morning/early afternoon. You’d likely find me at the counter of the Blue Benn, appreciating the perfect attention of the wait staff, sipping a third cup with the NYT crossword puzzle and some kind of fab veggie breakfast. Or at the Miss Adams, admiring the wood bar. I’d enjoy watching others at work, the smell of the grill, and the coziness of my seat. There’d be some pining there too – after all, spoiled romances and broken hearts don’t stop with a B.A. – but I became more accustomed and even happy with my own company, along with the casual kindness of the women checking on my cup.
I returned to Boston, and took visiting friends to the Blue Room Brunch on a regular basis. Or my father would visit, and we’d head off to the Rosebud. Or I’d find a counter seat at Carberry’s, and work my way through an apricot Copenhagen (is that foreshadowing or what?). And a chocolate croissant. And the NYT crossword, and a book, and a journal entry, and interruptions from guys on the make on a Sunday morning.
Then came HFN, which took us to Carberrys when geographically convenient. Morning afters, on the way to the airport, latte and americano; the 5-Spot (where more than one waiter referred to us as lovebirds); the full plate of eggs and potatoes delivered to me at the parker house a few hours before the wedding, with tabasco; waddling into KrispyKreme 2 weeks before Ben arrived, only to miss Dunkin’ Donuts all the more; the ritual of the Whole Foods breakfast bar, and Mommy making pancakes in the middle of the week.
On the road though, a warm meal in the morning and the reliability of my own company became a treasured prize. Croissants or japanese seaweeds and pickle, bread and cheese; the delicious plum tomato and spinach omelet with grilled turkish bread, and always, the kind server, usually a woman, making sure that I could have a perfect moment with a coffee and myself.
But now there is a new bloom to the rose of my breakfasttime love. Sometimes, with pancakes at home. Sometimes, sitting side by side in a vinyl booth, Ben and I talk about eggs, and a kookaburra bird in the old gum tree. He tells me that he’d like me to cut up his pancakes, and he’d like some blueberries too. He tries things out, he follows my lead. He thanks the woman who checks on his milk and mommy’s coffee. A new love is born.