By Sushmita Bose
The word breakfast — the portmanteau of “breaking the fast” — has me tied up in knots. I’m not a breakfast person, it’s my least favourite meal of the day, and whenever someone tells me, “Let’s meet for breakfast”, my heart sinks a little bit, because, well, it’s bound to be a meeting where the way to my heart will definitely not be through my stomach.
A few days ago, a friend was telling me — very smugly, if I may add, along with that annoying “I’m-doing-the-right-thing” look in her eyes — how having a good 8 o’clock breakfast has changed her life. “I feel better than ever before.”
Obviously, I had to ask her what she feeds herself every morning.
It’s like a set menu, I was soon to learn. Oats with soya milk, organic eggs, a slice of toasted quinoa bread smeared with extra virgin olive oil (“never butter, I still don’t buy the newfangled theory that butter’s good for you,” she said, her nose crinkling up), a fruit bowl topped with a “drizzle of honey”, and a large mug of herbal tea. She injects variety into it by making her eggs differently each day: boiled, half-boiled, poached, scrambled, omelette and so on…and by rotating fruits — a new set in her bowl every morning, “but some form of berries” are a constant.
Feeling slightly sick in my stomach, I asked her, “Gosh, how long do you take to organise all this?” It’s a breeze, she said, 15-20 minutes.
And how do you eat so much that early in
“Oh, come on, I’m starving by the time
I wake up!”
Around the time she’s sipping her herbal tea, I’m making myself a cup of CTC chai with full-fat milk, and at least two spoons of sugar. While the tea steeps, I toast a slice of bread (white, brown, multi-grain, whatever’s handy), spread Amul butter over it, then some gooseberry jam — and I’m through. That’s breakfast for me, and, most times, I wish I didn’t have to make such an effort. On weekends, after lolling around in bed till at least 10am (unless, God forbid, someone wants to meet me for breakfast), I reach out for my trusty Zomato app to order a dosa or a plate of vadas, and Madras filter coffee, from this new place I’ve discovered called Chennai Spice (they’re super quick with their delivery).
Almost everyone I know has stepped up on the breakfast pedal and converted it into a daily ritual. “In an average day, it’s the one meal I have a handle on,” a colleague told me yesterday. “At least I know what I’m feeding my system…I owe it to my body.”
Another person told me she has organic green tea before she consumes her rye bread laid over with egg whites, avocado slices and kale. “I like to irrigate my system first — only then will I get into the breakfast act.”
So okay, the world over, medical experts have conducted studies and scientific research that endorse having a hearty breakfast could lay down the lie of the land as far as your health is concerned. In brief, the body needs food — good food — at the end of your sleep time (in the morning) to invigorate it and set its tone for the entire day, so whatever it is that these wise folks are doing must be absolutely correct. There’s even a saying that goes: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”
But, somehow, despite the promises of regal pomp, I cannot jump onto the breakfast bandwagon. Having said that, the cultural anthropology of breakfasts fascinates me. I cannot get over, for instance, how at hotels almost anywhere in the world, you can opt for an ‘English breakfast’. I was in Goa a couple of months ago, and I was this close to ordering one when I picked up the room service menu. Imagine having a portion of (1) meat, (2) fried chicken sausages, (3) poached or scrambled eggs, (4) baked beans, (5) a grilled tomato, (6) fried mushrooms, and (7) buttered toasts — all at one go! Better sense prevailed, and I opted instead for a croissant and a coffee, and, obviously, a friend had to pipe up with, “Oh, how French — you’re so chic!”
Then, there’s the American version. Whenever I watch a Hollywood movie or a television series, and there’s a breakfast scene, everyone is invariably digging into cereals, and chugging orange juice.
And then, there’s the Japanese one featuring a fermented soybean dish called natto. How does one start the day with a sticky, slimy breakfast, I wonder, but I’ve been informed it’s super healthy, and one reason why people in Japan live so long.
Breakfast menus go on and on. It’s a strange thing, almost like an oxymoron: while I hate breakfast, I love breakfast food. No, not dreadful acai berry bowls or oatmeal in a cup, but crisp toasts with lots of butter, a well-done cheese omelette, and a pat of bitter marmalade, washed down by a strong cup of full-frills cappuccino or elegant Darjeeling tea. Which is why I love all-day breakfast places: I feel they came into their own because of me.
My idea of the perfect lunch or dinner is a great breakfast.
Sushmita is editor, WKND. She has a penchant for analysing human foibles