Full Circle: Remember Breakfast?
It used to come in a bowl

For me, there was only one rule for breakfast. Never eat something that stared back at you.

On Sundays, like clockwork, my Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Sol would come for breakfast. Uncle Sol was a skinny man, a wiry man, a man who ate and ate and never gained weight. My Aunt Lizzie hated him for that. With two cousins in tow, they would board the 79 trolley at Snyder Avenue and take three cars and a bus to our new house. With a home that took up more than one floor, we had suddenly become the rich relatives. And Sunday breakfast had become a feast. Lox and bagels, kippered salmon and white fish, and big, juicy tomatoes that came all the way from New Jersey.

“Eat, eat,” my mother would say. And the forks would fly. There was a certain symmetry to the Sunday platter. Bagels and cream cheese around the bottom. Two kinds of lox and kippered salmon up top. And, dead in the middle, was a giant smoked fish with his head still on and his eyeball still in. Everyone else put piles on their plates and started digging in. I just stood there and stared at the fish. And the fish stared back.

“The smoked fish cost a fortune,” my mother would say. “Eat some.” I never did. That eyeball, from that day forth, made me a cereal man. Farina was my favorite. As thick as wet cement, and just as delicious. So hot, it cleared my sinuses. So thick, it ate my spoon. Sure, sometimes, just for variety, I had Cream of Wheat. But, by and by, I was a Farina man.

But, whatever the choice, breakfast used to come in a bowl. Not on a hoagie roll. Breakfast would stick to your ribs, not to your belly. And breakfast had toast. Toast on it’s own plate, dripping with rich, creamy butter. And juice. Orange juice, full of pulp, that came not from a can, but from real oranges, grown on real trees and squeezed before your eyes. Breakfast made you want to face the day. It gave you energy. It gave you purpose.

These days, breakfast gives you a lot of things. Purpose isn’t one of them. Somewhere, we lost our way. Somehow, we stopped eating breakfast for breakfast.

First came the breakfast sandwich. Aren’t sandwiches supposed to be for lunch? Didn’t you get the memo? Evidently Subway and Wawa didn’t.

Subway offers slices and slices of bacon and sausage and egg and cheese on a roll. Not a bun. A roll previously dedicated to cheesesteaks. And speaking of cheesesteaks, Wawa now offers one for breakfast. A cheesesteak.

Of course, this all started with McDonald’s Egg McMuffin. Bacon, egg, cheese, biscuit and a couple days’ worth of cholesterol. But that’s not even the worst offender. The Subway Footlong has 79 grams of fat and 3,190 mg of sodium.

Breakfast sandwiches are an equal opportunity killer. Now for those of you who press two, there are breakfast burritos.

The Jack-in-the-Box burrito gives you eggs, chorizo sausage, cheese and hash browns wrapped in a tortilla, with a side of salsa and a whole day’s worth of saturated fat. Hardee’s has a tortilla that’s a glut of ham, bacon, sausage, eggs, cheese and hash browns.

What ever happened to the breakfast bowl? Oh, it’s back. But not full of cereal and fresh milk. The Burger King Breakfast Bowl is full of eggs, sausage, shredded cheese, peppers, potatoes and yes, more cheese. And over 1,000 mgs of sodium.

At Jack-in-the-Box, it’s scrambled eggs, hash browns, ham, bell peppers and two, count ’em, kinds of cheese. With 850 calories, 465 mg of cholesterol and 1,390 mg of sodium. Yum.

So, where is this headed? Well, we continue to be the fattest country on Earth. At least we’re number one at something. But these days, with the crazy pace of modern life, more and more Americans say they skip breakfast completely. And maybe that’s the good news.

March 2012
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