We are told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Its significance overshadows our school lunches and our TV dinners nuked by a radioactive glow. We are told in health classes and by our helicopter parents that breakfast is a foundation for a healthy life and a healthy mind. Fruit loops become magical orbs that break our fasting nighttime rituals when we dream of microwave pancakes and the sound of instant coffee being poured into ceramic mugs. We subscribe to the essentiality of a superior morning meal that is prized by our doctors, our families, our culture. Yet, like many of the things we are told, the importance of our morning appeasement of hunger is not treasured by all of us.
Conversations often remind me of how different the human experience can be, particularly around consumption. Recently as a friend and I were cramming over a dining hall breakfast, I told her about the strange feeling I had being in the cafe so early in the day. The quiet eating and sound of eggs being scraped off of opaque griddles was too unfamiliar for comfort. She told me about the solace she found in breakfast time, and the memories of being home where breakfast was synonymous with family and unsurmountable rations. I understood. Internally I felt something like embarrassment for not having anything to compare to her experience. I couldn’t tell her stories about sitting around a crowded table of familiar famished faces with bright smiles and full plates, so I remained silent as I pictured what that would look like, how it would feel, and how it differed so greatly from my own morning routine.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, for those who can facilitate its importance. When you have parents like mine whose professions dictate that they wake up before the sun has christened the morning, there is no hour when you could walk into your kitchen to find them dishing out scrambled eggs. They must smile a loving good morning to their employers and think fondly of the moment they can return home in the middle of the evening when the most important meal of the day has lost its importance. Or when your family doesn’t have the luxury of breakfast and the most important meal of the day is the only one you receive, at school through the Free and Reduced Lunch program. Or any other sort of roadblock, big or small, that makes other things more important than breaking the fasting cycle of our designated resting hours.
As I listened to my friend’s charming story, I thought about all that I could have missed out on in those mornings when my kitchen table lay bare. I think of the lessons my own experiences taught me, and how they made my discomfort in the morning dining area so much different from her comfort. I started to realize how breakfast, something we think of as a minute part of our overall existence, shaped (and was shaped by) our realities in such different ways. I think about how I don’t allow myself the time to spend mornings sitting by a window with a cup of tea and a banana. Mornings spent waking up to a lonely home, necessarily devoid of the leisure that breakfast can imply, made me eager to move on to crowded spaces and a crowded mind.
There is no time for myself, there is no time to care for my body. Such activities, in my experience, are packed with loneliness and are empty of connection. I wonder now if we become conditioned to avoid the things we could never have, the moments we were denied. I wonder how many people burn themselves out trying to run from the simple escape of a chai latte and a bowl of fruit as they sit against the rising sun. I wonder how many people subconsciously make decisions that keep them from the physical and emotional joys of breakfast time because they never got to experience its importance. I guess I don’t have to wonder about myself anyway.
We are told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I’m beginning to understand that it’s not just because of the wealth of glucose that is stored in our treats, it’s not just about nourishing our bodies. It’s about finding a connection with yourself as you gaze lovingly into your asiago bagel with schmear and think about your day’s plans as you take time to truly prepare yourself for what is ahead of you. It’s about connecting with a friend while they tell you about why this particular moment means something greater than just a piece of toast layered with avocado and garnished with salt and pepper. It’s about realizing that there is something inside yourself that you allowed to go unheard and that kept you from venturing into the grocery aisle where they keep the omelette ingredients.
With realization must come change. I will not allow the dictations of a society that allows some of us more time and resources than others to hold me back from experiencing freshly squeezed OJ any longer. I am fortunate enough that I can actually make a choice to change the routine, while I acknowledge that there are people who will have to run out of their empty homes without even a package of mini-muffins. I acknowledge that I have reached a position that allows me to spend a moment providing for myself what I was never able to have before. So every morning I will wake up with the intent of making breakfast the most important meal of the day. I will tell the people around me to take that extra 30 minutes to run to Einstiens for their pre-afternoon reward. I will tell my mother to sit down at the table with her coffee, if even for 5 minutes before she runs off into the heroic sacrifice she’s made for her family.
Because breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and now that I understand that, I can now do my best to facilitate that importance.