“Eat your breakfast! It’s the most important meal of the day!” my mother would scream at me. But I wasn’t a breakfast guy back then. Other than the odd brunch out, I grew up eating a quick poached egg or an “egg in the hole” with a short glass of juice, maybe a bowl of cereal. Since I didn’t like sweets for my morning meal, I felt doomed to this limited routine.
Then I went overseas for the first time. In much of Europe, two morning meals were the norm. Enjoy coffee and a croissant early and then a little something more at mid-morning. In some countries they ate yogurts and grains, breads and cheeses, cured meats, roasted mushrooms, and tomatoes. This was more like it.
In Asia I discovered rice porridge (congee) with ginger spiked greens and shreds of roasted pork or chicken. And I found my favorite morning meals in Japan, where small portions of fish, rice, soup, pickles, and vegetables are served together as standard fare.
I learned the true value of morning nutrition when I lived with the Maasai for a week in Tanzania and ate thick soured milk, blood, and millet porridge every morning. Sounds strange, tastes stranger, but it’s the perfect way to get your energy up for herding cattle all day. In Mexico, a steaming beautiful bowl of trompo beef soup is a hearty morning pick-me-up.
Today I’m a dad, reminding my kid that he should finish his breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day. But I have come to believe that the standard American breakfast of two eggs, buttered toast, sausage, hash browns, flapjacks with syrup, and some juice doesn't make sense in our post-agrarian society. Three-egg omelets were fine when you filled up and headed outdoors to earn your living, but now we need more balance.
At our house, our morning meal is often Asian-inspired: mostly vegetables and lean meats with a soupçon of carbs. But we don’t limit ourselves. Sometimes we pretend we are in Germany and eat cold cuts and a piece of country bread. Sometimes my son and I share a soupy meal in a bowl. Weekends are still built on bacon, and Sunday mornings wouldn’t be the same without smoked fish and bagels. It’s variety that makes the world go round, after all. The breakfast rut is a deep one; try not to fall in.