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June 5, 2008

Breakfast confessions

Filed under: American Food,Breakfast,Fast food — Mr. Henry @ 9:45 am

Mr. Henry is worried about his country.

It is not enough that we change our party, we must change our pastry, as well, specifically, our breakfast pastry. It’s a scandal.

New York magazine’s cover story this week reveals the frightful selections locals here choose first thing in the morning. Be forewarned. This is not for the faint of heart.

Each picture portrait with breakfast description is a snapshot pinpointing personality and temperament. 60 interviews, 60 lives in brief, most bound for wreck and ruin.

Mind you, there is occasional testimony of oatmeal or fresh fruit. Quite a few sit down to a lumberjack breakfast of every high caloric ingestible known to man – eggs, bacon, grits (with cheese!), biscuits (with gravy!), and so on – not a regime designed for longevity unless you eat little else for the remainder of the day, but a regime that does sustain and nourish. Two men ate a pure breakfast of four hard-boiled eggs, one of whom followed that with two more eggs. What could be simpler?

The overwhelming majority eat sweets. Ick. Nothing good from sucrose comes.

How can we expect to lead the world on a breakfast of pop tarts and Venti? With these beginnings, by 11:00 a.m. even the soberest citizens are ready to dispense collateral damage willy-nilly.


The scariest of all must be the doughnut. Reason itself withers against a fried onslaught of fat and sugar.

Mr. Henry imagines guards at Guantanamo devouring jelly doughnuts and their sticky boxes, too. Wooh wooh wooh. Arggggggghhh! Off they go to force-feed the detainees.

The article revealed many mysteries. Two African-Americans ate turkey bacon. What could be the attraction? Is this a Black Muslim modification of the old-fashioned American standard?

Several people confessed to drinking alcohol in the morning, the very definition of alcohol dependence. Even alcohol, however, beats a breakfast of Coca-Cola.

Older people seem to have a better grasp of the importance of an appropriate breakfast. They don’t take their digestive functions for granted. The oldest man ate the breakfast best suited to gastro-intestinal happiness – an orange, cottage cheese and fig jam on wheat crackers, with English breakfast tea. This is more than a wise breakfast, it’s a tasty one. This man is clear-minded and well-balanced. Mr. Henry wants to vote for him.

Today Mr. Henry himself began with a small glass of fresh orange juice. While the coffee was steeping he ate half a banana and a large slice of red papaya. Because his noble hound Pepper does not permit a second cup of coffee before walkies, Mr. Henry’s oatmeal with raisins had to wait until after. (He adds a pinch of brown sugar and a splash of cream.)

After a second cup of coffee (french press) with whole milk, he is fully fed and fully caffeinated. Should he feel peckish at elevens, the best remedy will be an early lunch.


  1. Two African-Americans ate turkey bacon. What could be the attraction? Is this a Black Muslim modification of the old-fashioned American standard?
    – What on Earth does this mean? Hope its not what I’m thinking? Please explain.

    Comment by Sunflowery — June 5, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

  2. To put the question more plainly: Except in observance of some religious proscription, why would anyone willingly eat turkey bacon instead of the real stuff?

    Comment by Mr. Henry — June 5, 2008 @ 9:29 pm

  3. I’m not convinced eggs and bacon in themselves are bad. But they’re often sold with a few pounds of potatoes seasoned with the stuff they put on potato chips, lots of white bread toast, and little plastic tubs of jam (like a kind of dessert)–so I can see where the sugar levels suddenly outweigh all the protein in those meat and eggs. It’s all that other stuff that leads to an early demise (or, worse, wishing you could just die already).

    I don’t know what the deal is with dough noughts (donuts!) or pastries like poptarts or muffins or danishes, but I suspect this is a kind of poverty food–a leftover habit of eating fried dough when there was little else to eat. I always think of bannock “bread”, fried dough the Indians ate when they weren’t allowed to hunt, or the fried dough Ma Joad makes for breakfast in Grapes of Wrath when their food supplies are almost exhausted. It’s something to fill your stomach, eaten with the hope that something more substantial will come along soon.

    Comment by ChaChaHeels — June 6, 2008 @ 7:44 am

  4. Amen to these comments, ChaChaHeels.

    The honestly-named “dough nought” is the reification of its own nutritional value. It’s an edible rebus. Come to think of it, the thing has elegance after all.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — June 6, 2008 @ 8:20 am

  5. It looks like a lot of those people are having breakfast at their local coffee shop, a place not known for healthy food. However, I’ve noticed that both the coffee shop nearest my apartment and the coffee shop closest to my university’s library have started serving oatmeal within the last year (one with fresh fruit, the other with raisins). Hopefully this is a new trend?

    Comment by JaneC — June 6, 2008 @ 11:52 am

  6. my favorite breakfast is our every-other-Sunday visit to Cafe Brioche in Palo Alto. I always order the same meal: eggs scrambled with fresh spinach, walnuts and a little gorgonzola cheese. On the side: fresh melon and strawberries substituted for the potatoes. No brioche, baguette,or (sob) beignets. Earl Gray tea,
    oh, and we ride our bikes there–9.5 miles round trip.

    now if I could conquer my yen for sweets in the late afternoon — aka CUPCAKE TIME!

    Comment by Casey — June 6, 2008 @ 2:00 pm

  7. Casey, please don’t tell Mrs. Henry about Cafe Brioche. She’ll start moving back to California again.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — June 6, 2008 @ 3:35 pm

  8. If I’m lucky, I eat a granola bar during a prep period. I’m not, I drink a lot of water until lunch. Once school is over and the finals are graded, I’ll probably sleep in so late that breakfast will be moot.

    Comment by me — June 6, 2008 @ 7:59 pm

  9. I favor a nice soft cooked egg in the morning, along with sourdough toast for dipping and maybe an asparagus spear or two when they’re in season.

    I’ll also go for my own home made bagels with smoked salmon, goat cheese, onions & capers. Bagels are really easy to make and naturally Cook’s Illustrated has parsed the definitive recipe; they weigh less than 4 ounces and are solid, chewy, malty and not the Van Allen Belt poofs of the breakfast chain versions.

    Comment by Phyllis — June 10, 2008 @ 6:57 pm

  10. Breakfast is the easiest meal of all to eat healthy, because if you set it up the night before you’ve got no strength to fight your own plan in the morning.

    I have instant oatmeal to which I add dried berries and cinnamon (if I could buy instant oatmeal in bulk, I could premix this) and coffee in a French Press, so all I have to do is wake up, put the kettle on, go brush my teeth, and pour. Easy.

    If I had some fruit I could eat an apple or something, too, but I don’t.

    Turkey bacon isn’t bad, actually; turkey’s flavour goes well with the smokiness, and it’s lower in fat than regular bacon. But of course, being Canadian, I would only ever touch back bacon or double smoked Irish bacon. Not that I would make any of these for myself for breakfast. I don’t do any heavy lifting before my coffee’s hit.

    There are healthier options at cafes: Starbucks has the fruit and nut bar, which has protein and a fair amount of vitamins and fiber, or the blueberry bar which is full of antioxidants and BLUEBERRIES! Or the lowfat fruit bar. I’m sure other places would have similar things if people started asking. Ask even if you know they don’t carry them, because staff will tell the manager and he might bring them in.

    My fallback position when I’m on the road is a decent-quality granola bar and an orange in my handbag. The bar may get crumbly, but an orange doesn’t bruise like an apple.

    Comment by raincoaster — June 11, 2008 @ 8:42 pm

  11. Mr. Twistie has been eating turkey bacon for years, due to his tendancy to extremely high cholesterol levels. I’ve been known to have a bit now and then, but definitely prefer the pig variety. Still, it’s a different enough taste and texture that I can ultimately appreciate it on its own merits rather than as a substitute. It’s the soy stuff that I can’t stand. Give me tofu as tofu, not a soy meat substitute.

    It’s been warm enough in the mornings around here lately that I’ve been eating cold cereal for breakfast (ones lower in sugars, usually with a bit of fruit added as well as the milk) with my coffee. In the colder months, I tend toward oatmeal or another hot grain cereal, also with fruit. But if I’m going out at breakfast time, I tend to treat myself to goodies like eggs Benedict or crispy waffles drenched in maple syrup. There’s just no point in cooking things like that for one, and I don’t want to be responsible for Mr. Twistie’s early demise.

    Of course, when the larder is very bare around here, I’ve been known to slather toast in butter and whatever flavor jam we happen to have on hand and make do with that until lunch.

    Then again, from Casey’s description, I clearly have to make it to Cafe Brioche for breakfast one day, even if Palo Alto is a little far for me to go for breakfast on a daily basis. Mrs. Henry is welcome to join me on said jaunt.

    Comment by Twistie — June 11, 2008 @ 9:16 pm

  12. Sadly, I’ve let my Very Good Breakfast Habits (whole grain English muffin, 1/4 sliced avocado, and 3 egg whites with 1/4 yolk, usually scrambled, plus green tea) devolve in to COFFEE and MORE COFFEE (French press, of course).

    However, I’m currently studying in Ireland and am trying to get back in to better breakfast habits, since the coffee around here isn’t like my coffee back home. A cup of tea with whole milk & a little raw sugar, a hard boiled egg, and 2 slices of dark bread, toasted, with a bit of butter and orange marmelade.

    I don’t like to start my day with anything heavy or greasy (hence the coffee routine), so I don’t even cook the stuff. “Donuts” were always a rare treat as a child, and I still can not understand how anyone can consider that to be a true breakfast.

    Comment by Danielle — June 19, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

  13. Vanilla nonfat yogurt, 1/2 tart apple, finely chopped, half a palmful of chopped english walnuts, a 1/4 cup of high-fiber, low sugar, whole grain cereal or 1/2 cup cheerios, and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

    Comment by I love breakfast. — June 24, 2008 @ 6:26 pm

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