Take me to a breakfast buffet and I am in heaven. (Aside from obvious hysteria as result of just.so.many.choices.)
This is scale of things; a friend recently returned from Vegas and whilst regaling tales of pool parties and naked cavorting ladies, I had to interrupt and get to the real crux of the matter.
“But what was the breakfast like? Was there a buffet? What did you eat?”
(Never judge a book by its cover, but feel free to judge hotel experience by its brekkie.)
Yep, I’ve always been just a little bit enthused by breakfast, in all its guises.
If such things could be hereditary, then this most certainly not. For years Mum insisted that she “couldn’t eat a thing before 11”, whilst I merrily shovelled in the Coco Pops. (She has since rediscovered porridge and can’t get enough of the stuff. Now nothing can happen before 11 unless she’s had a bowl).
So beguiled am I by first meal of the day, that I felt compelled to write about it. Not – thankfully – a bore on health benefits. More of an ode, if you will, to the cereals and pastries. The fruit, the veg. The honeys and waffles (oh the waffles) that have seen me through every type of brilliant, bloody awful, bright, nervy, birthday, anxious or merry morn.
In keeping with the no health benefits promise, my first breakfast memory; a holiday in France, at a time of life where I had a particular penchant for matching gingham headbands and scrunchies.
For ten sunny morns, out on a small cobbled patio, a vision of gingham, nineteen years old (jokes – I was six), I devoured plain yogurt from a glass jar, topped with equal quantity of brown sugar.
I didn’t care about the horrors of all that sugar because the sour and the sweet tasted so good. And also because I was six. (For this and next few years to follow, a white sugar cube would be snack of choice.)
And so, amongst sugar cubes and Wagon Wheels, a breakfast love affair unfolded.
The Sophisticated Croissant
Hot all-butter croissants with generous serving of Frank Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade pre-empted two more Sunday favourites; roast potatoes (lunch time) and hot cross buns (Antique’s Roadshow time). Frank Cooper’s was Dad’s marmalade of choice and so aged nine, unquestionably, mine too.
Summer of the Pop Tart
So long croissants, and welcome discovery of the Pop Tart. Nutritious and delicious; I burnt my tongue every day of August after hopping around the toaster for a full two minutes. I was nine and life was a marvel of food discovery.
The microwave Scrambled Egg
Age 14 I realised that you could make scrambled egg in a microwave and, quite the chef, I embarked on a mission to discover perfect timing and power watt combination. This resulted in a week long culinary experience resemblant to chewing polystyrene. Egg wasn’t to be touched again until my twenties.
Toast and sugar
After years devoted to Cookie Crisp and the odd Weetabix, I discovered the Common Room horror that was a slice of thick white topped with sugar. Don’t even ask. It was as vile as it sounds. Yet still I ate it. It was my 16 year old ‘thing’..
Wednesday morning chocolate croissants
For my final two years of school as a boarder, I snoozed through breakfast every day.
Apart from Wednesdays.
Because on Wednesdays the dinner (breakfast?) ladies dished out chocolate croissants. And you could bet your life the dining hall was never busier. Come rain, shine or snow I tucked PJs into my trusty Ugg boots, threw on a chic Jack Wills gilet and fought my way through the crowds. Begrudgingly, we were limited to just the one. Most upsetting.
The Belvita obsession
As a Loughborough student I spent half my student loan (possibly more), stocking up on Belvita biscuits. A box never far out of reach, they left a trail of crumbs on bed spread, desk, kitchen floor. Main attraction; zero washing up.
Concerningly aware that I was paying approximately seven times the amount for something easily achieved in office kitchen, I enjoyed oats from cardboard container every morn on my way to work, whilst feeling like the ultimate city professional.
Eggs; the rediscovery
Taking clients out for breakfast made me realise that pancakes and waffles just weren’t the most sophisticated option. And boy, did I want to seem sophisticated. (Particularly when unknowingly sitting down to a table of completely the wrong people, and not realising terrible mistake until food ordered and half eaten. But that’s for another time.)
Anyway, I rediscovered eggs and all the delicious sides and wondered why an earth I hadn’t eaten this sooner. Then I remembered the week of the microwave.
The Breakfast Awakening
A dramatic, but deserving subtitle.
25 saw me in bed feeling rubbish. Every morning was a smashing headache, whilst waking was bleary with worry.
The day would start, often waking in pain, at around 4am. Sometimes I’d fall asleep again and sometimes I wouldn’t. The worst part were the hours that followed. They could be really lonely and my mind wandered to all sorts of places (although, mostly ‘I quite desperately need the loo, but I can’t make my way there’. On loop).
Then 7am would arrive and Mum would appear with porridge in hand (mine not hers) and she’d prop me on a couple of pillows and the day would begin.
This breakfast in bed was combination of relief and misery. I longed to stand in that Pret queue paying approximately £23 for a three berries and half a cup of oats, but even the kitchen was a despairing distance. Stairs were no easy feat.
So imagine the joy on the morning I made my way down to sit at the table. And then, a couple of months later, to pop my own porridge in the microwave . Preparing my own breakfast – we’ll use the term ‘preparing’ loosely – after getting out of bed and making way down the stairs on my own, was my first taste of independence. So ecstatic was I to walk to cafe for first breakfast out, that I posted a proud pic on Instagram with the caption “Real mission accomplished”. I’d stood, queued, worked out ‘words’ and paid. All before 10am.
Now, I absolutely love thinking up what I’ll be eating in the morning.
Breakfast has become so much more than just the food that I’ll be eating. Initially, making sure I was eating something healthy and delicious was a way of showing a little self love at a time when I felt despairingly disappointed in my bod. Now, I think about how I can best fuel my day, which sounds horribly Women’s Health, but is entirely true.
With an illness that has such little response to medication, diet has allowed me to feel that I am taking control over my recovery. Plus, filling up with good stuff gives a satisfying feeling of something achieved by 8am. And, thankfully, now that I give microwave+eggs a wide berth, is usually quite delicious.
And so, yes, for all your energy, metabolism, #healthspo needs, breakfast is important. But, for me, when I post a pic of an omelette with side of hot cherry tomatoes, a lovingly baked granola or homemade banana pancake, it means considerably more than that.
** Important to mention that after many a duvet covered morn, for a while I could think of nothing worse than breakfast in bed. That phobia is a thing of the past. Poach me an egg, smash up some avocado, deliver on some sort of tray (if feeling particularly lovely) and you’ve just made a new best pal. **